Using Sentence Structure to Signal Different Relationships | Writing

April 20, 2015 thetasctest

Using Sentence Structure to Signal Different Relationships | TASC Writing

Syntax refers to the arrangement of words to show their relationship to one another in a sentence. When a sentence is arranged successfully, it can be paired with other sentences to signal different relationships between ideas, and to convey an argument.

This is one of the essential writing tips that can help you prepare for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Writing subtest. If you’ve already learned about the basic types of sentence structure and grammar, you’ll remember that there are four different sentence structures:

  1. Simple
  2. Compound
  3. Complex
  4. Compound-Complex

Within these structures, you can organize your ideas differently and use certain types of voice. Your verb forms and usages impact that voice, and consequentially dictate how your reader “receives” your argument. In other words, you can use sentence structure and grammar to directly impact your audience’s reading experience.

If you want to make sure your audience is effectively connecting or distinguishing ideas within your writing, use specific sentence structures to signal different relationships. According to the Online Writing Lab at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), one of the best sentence structures to use to signal relationships is the compound structure. Compound sentences use coordinating conjunctions, which “signify the relationship between two independent clauses, allowing the writer to specify meaning. In other words, when we construct a compound sentence using a coordinating conjunction, we ask our readers to understand that the two ideas logically relate to each other in the way in which we specify.”

The specification of the relationship is important because coordinating conjunctions can be used to show that two ideas are related or that two ideas are in conflict with one another.

You are probably already using coordinating conjunctions in your day-to-day writing and speaking. Nevertheless, CSUS offers a helpful acronym for students to remember coordinating conjunctions, FANBOYS, which stands for:

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

There is a specific logic behind these coordinating conjunctions, which can help you understand which conjunction may be best to use to signify a specific relationship between ideas.

Coordinating Conjunction




But, Yet

Opposition, Contrast, Concession




Result or Effect

Or, Nor

Choice, Option, Alternative

Review these examples of sentences using coordinating conjunctions:

Taylor had passed the TASC test Writing subtest, and was ready to take the TASC test Reading subtest.

I registered for the TASC test, but I want to take some prep classes first.

You can take any subject test first, so it’s up to you.

Ryan Weber and Allen Brizee of the Purdue OWL note that you can also show relationships by linking sentences through subordination. By this, they mean that you can “link two related sentences to each other so that one carries the main idea and the other is no longer a complete sentence (subordination).” This differs from the use of compound sentences above, which required two independent clauses to be connected by a coordinating conjunction. Therefore, the connectors you’ll use to connect an independent clause with a subordinate clause will be different. Purdue OWL recommends:

  • After
  • Although
  • As
  • As if
  • Because
  • Before
  • Even if
  • Even though
  • If
  • If only
  • Rather than
  • Since
  • That
  • Though
  • Unless
  • Until
  • When
  • Where
  • Whereas
  • Wherever
  • Whether
  • Which
  • While

Connecting sentences in this way demonstrates different types of relationships. They can be used in compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Examples include:

Whether you’re looking for a new job or want to enroll in college courses, the TASC test can help you achieve your goals.

Students who prefer paper-based testing may have to take the TASC test rather than the GED.

John was excited to take the TASC test Writing subtest because he felt prepared.

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