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When you first learn how to read, the sentences are so simple that it’s easy to understand the writing. “Tom walks by. Suzy dances. The cat purrs.” Young readers easily understand these sentences, but they are dry to read. These sentences lack color and detail that makes them enjoyable to read. Compound sentences contain the detail that readers crave.

These sentences add interest, value, and interest in writing that makes communication clear for readers. Compound sentences have a few usage rules that should be understood so that they are used correctly.

This guide, by ArgoPrep, will review the foundation of clauses before diving into the rules and applications of compound sentences. With this guide in hand, you’ll be on your way to more effective writing!

What is a Clause

Just like building blocks, there are many small blocks that you must understand to build the larger structure of a compound sentence.  Before we dig into compound sentences, we must first make the distinction between clauses.

A clause is a sentence that includes at least one subject and one predicate. A predicate must contain a verb and state something about the subject.

There can be more than one clause per sentence, but they must be separated by punctuation like a comma for clarity.

Independent vs. Dependent Clauses

There are two types of clauses: independent and dependent clauses. An independent clause can stand alone and make sense.

A sentence like “Jessie went to the store” is an independent clause. We don’t need any additional information to understand the sentence. Additionally, “Jessie went to the store, but they were sold out of oranges” is two independent clauses separated with the coordinating conjunction but.

Dependent Clauses

A dependent clause is not a complete thought and cannot stand on its own and make sense. “They were sold out of oranges” on its own is a dependent clause and doesn’t make sense out of context.

There are some writing clues to let you know when you are reading a dependent clause. These are called markers and include the words: after, although, as if, because, even if, to, though, until, whenever, and while (along with other words). 

The sentence, “Although they were sold out of oranges,” is an example of a dependent clause. When you read it, you might even feel yourself craving more detail to understand the event.

Dependent clauses can come before, in the middle, or after independent clauses, but they cannot stand on their own. If you write a dependent clause without supporting an independent clause, you will run into the writing issue called a sentence fragment.

A sentence fragment is when you write an incomplete sentence and is incorrect in writing.


What is a Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is a process of combining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction.

As we just learned, an independent clause contains a subject and a predicate and can stand alone and make sense to the reader.

A compound sentence combines two independent clauses, and as a result, the writing is more exciting and detailed for the reader. Like the example in the introduction, instead of “Tom walks by,” a compound sentence would elaborate on this thought.

“Tom walks by, but he stopped abruptly at the pothole.”

“Suzy dances, yet the judges pay no attention to her movements.”

“The cat purrs like a train rumbling down the track.”

Compound vs. Complex Sentences

A compound sentence separates two independent clauses using a comma or semicolon.

A complex sentence is a little different. Remember our dependent clauses? When you combine an independent clause with a dependent clause, you will create a complex sentence. These are obviously different from a compound sentence because of the absence of two independent clauses.

Putting Coordinating Conjunctions to Work

We are taught coordinating conjunctions in elementary school, so it’s easy to understand why this might feel easy to some. Do you remember how you were taught in school to remember connecting words? If you’re like me, then teachers drilled us to recognize the simple mnemonic device: F A N B O Y S

Fanboys is a group of letters that each represents a connecting word.

F= For O= Or
A= And Y= Yet
N= Not S= So


These coordinating conjunctions are the ties you will use to blend your independent clauses to create a compound sentence.

As you become a more advanced writer, you might find yourself using more complex coordinating markers in your writing to blend two independent clauses. Words like, however, moreover, nevertheless, consequently, furthermore, unfortunately, surprisingly, thankfully, then, in spite of this, are examples of complex markers for independent clauses.

Using Punctuation to Support Your Compound Sentences

Punctuation is essential in compound sentences. The two punctuation marks you will use to blend two independent clauses are the comma and semicolon.

When using a coordinating conjunction, consider the best punctuation mark for your writing, and include it to make your writing mechanically sound.

Try Sentence Diagramming

Persuasive writing is a skill that requires practice, but there is tremendous value in learning how to do it. When you can articulate your thoughts, you will be more effective at communicating to various audiences. It’s not only the ability to get your ideas on paper, though. When you are a strong writer, you can add emotion, detail, and value to your writing, which engages readers on an emotional level too.

There are many ways that you can be a stronger writer. Most importantly, high-quality writing requires practice with constructive criticism. If you would like to become a better writer, you must find somebody who you trust to provide you with valuable feedback for improvement. Write for a wide range of topics include narratives, informational, argumentative, and more.

Sentence Diagramming: An Overview

If you would like to improve your writing, you can also try  
 . Sentence diagramming is especially helpful for writers who want to make their writing more complicated, but aren’t sure where to begin.

To begin diagramming a sentence, you will place the main ideas on a line. You will incrementally process through each word, measuring and improving the writing, until you have written a more complex sentence.

Think of it like a train. A basic train has a conductor, (probably) a boxcar, and a caboose. But a train is capable of pulling much more than just these three things. Many trains can tow up to 60 cars without much trouble. Sentences are the same way.

When diagramming a sentence, as long as you have the necessary foundation, there are many ways that you can add detail without risk of run-on sentences (or incorrect writing). 

ArgoPrep has committed to providing its users with more valuable writing support to help any student become a more engaging writer. With Common Core-aligned practice online (and in their award-winning workbooks), ArgoPrep has everything you need to improve your writing skills in just 30 minutes per day.


If you want to make your writing more attractive to your reader, you must begin to use compound sentences in your writing correctly.

For review:

  • A clause contains at least one subject and one predicate.
  • There are two types of clauses: an independent clause and a dependent clause.
  • A dependent clause cannot stand on its own and usually has a marker to indicate that it’s dependent.
  • An independent clause is a complete thought and can stand on its own.
  • When you combine two independent clauses, you create a compound sentence.
  • Coordinating conjunction or punctuation mark usually separates a compound sentence.
  • As you advance in your writing skill, you will use more complex markers.
  • If you would like to add detail to your writing, try sentence diagraming or check out ArgoPrep for practice and support.

For more blog posts like this, check out ArgoPrep’s complete library of writing topics just like this one!

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