Any reader or aspiring writer will know that when creating engaging writing, it is necessary to vary the sentence type and include different types of sentences. For a second language writer, it can seem that there are so many potential ways to construct a sentence, that you are unsure where to start and afraid of getting your sentence structure wrong. This article will give you a focused and efficient method to get you started in using a variety of sentence structures in your OET writing. OET assessors will be looking for a well-constructed, concise letter that gets across the important information to the medical professional in question without any words wasted, in a professional and formal manner. The case notes need to be carefully transformed into fluent sentences.
If we stick to a few types of phrasing, then it will be easier to practice writing in this way without getting into terms that are too complicated and ending up writing sentences that may not make sense! Variety is important but it is equally important that you are confident that the sentence structure you are using is correct and therefore it is a good idea not to be over-ambitious at first. Also, formal letter writing needs to be succinct and to the point, using words sparingly, without the type of extra description and elaboration that you might find in fiction or an in-depth article. This is another reason to keep things relatively simple. Using a mixture of simple, compound and complex sentences gives you the means to do this.
Using Simple, Compound and Complex Sentences
So, let’s clarify our key terms and give some examples before we go any further. We will use a section from some case notes from our sample materials for the examples.
Complains of tiredness, difficulty sleeping for 2 months due to work stress
Plans another child in 12 months, currently on oral contraceptive pill (OCP)
O/E: Appears pale, tired and slightly restless
No abnormal findings
Assessment: Stress-related anxiety
Plan: advised relaxation techniques, reduce working hours, prescribe sleeping tablets tds
Simple sentence: A simple sentence is short, it could even be as short as only including a subject and a verb. It has only one independent clause (a phrase which expresses a complete idea and stands alone as a sentence).
Simple sentence example: Mrs Jones presented with stress-related anxiety.
Compound sentence: A compound sentence is made up of two independent clauses (or two simple sentences) joined together with a conjunction (or a punctuation mark).
Compound sentence example: The patient complained of sleeping difficulties because she was suffering from significant stress at work.
Complex sentence: A complex sentence uses an independent clause and a dependent clause (or more than one dependent clause). The independent clause is simply the part of the sentence that would work as a sentence alone and the dependent clause is the part of the sentence that is added to give more information and would not work on its own as a sentence.
Complex sentence example: Although she is currently still taking oral contraceptive pills, Mrs Jones is planning to conceive in one year’s time.
Now let’s put them together to form a short paragraph.
Mrs Jones presented with stress-related anxiety. The patient also complained of sleeping difficulties because she was suffering from significant stress at work. Although she is currently still taking oral contraceptive pills, Mrs Jones is planning to conceive in one years’ time.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? And it is so simple to construct using this method of including the three sentence types. Using simple, compound and complex sentences is a very efficient way of ensuring that your writing has a degree of fluency and is cohesive. Eventually, it becomes natural to write using a variety of sentence types, but at first, it is a good idea to consciously check if within each paragraph, you have used all three. It is particularly important to use complex sentences as they enable the writer to include a lot of information in a small number of words. This skill produces succinct writing that gets the message across clearly; exactly the kind of writing that you need for an OET letter.
Before you go, here are a couple of exercises that you can complete to get you started with this method.
The first learning activity is to use this article (or any piece of writing you want) and find examples of simple, compound and complex sentences. You will begin to get an idea of how these sentence structures work together to form a cohesive piece of writing. As this article is written by a native English speaker, you will most likely find that the majority of sentences are complex sentences, and this is how you will be writing eventually!
Bear in mind that an article style is different from that of an OET letter, but it is a good way to begin to recognise sentence structures. You can then read through our sample OET letters and repeat the activity.
The second learning activity for you to try is to use the remainder of the case-notes above that have not yet been transformed into full sentences and write your own simple, compound and complex sentences. Then put them together to make a small paragraph. You will see how simple it is… not complex at all!
Now that you have understood sentence formation and written a few letters, use our popular OET Writing Correction service to get your letter checked for grammatical range and accuracy, task completion, word choice and coherence. All the best!