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March 28, 2024

An Expert Guide to Writing Effective Compound Sentences (+ Examples)

An Expert Guide to Writing Effective Compound Sentences (+ Examples)

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Compound sentences consist of two or more sentences that have been joined together with a word such as “and” or “but.” As a copywriter of seven years, I’ve learned how they can greatly enhance the clarity and flow of your writing.

But using them incorrectly can have the opposite effect of confusing and frustrating your reader. The good news is that once you understand the basic rules on how to structure them, including how to use commas and semicolons, they’ll become second nature.

In this guide, I explain what compound sentences are, how they can improve your writing, and how to use them to give your writing maximum impact.

Key Takeaways

  • Compound sentences consist of two or more sentences — or “independent clauses” — connected using coordinating conjunctions, such as "or” and “but.”
  • You can use a semicolon between the individual clauses instead of a conjunction.
  • These types of sentences can make your writing flow better and express ideas more concisely.
  • You should always use a comma before a coordinating conjunction.

What’s a compound sentence?

Compound sentences join two or more independent clauses together using a coordinating conjunction or semicolon.

Here's a quick dictionary guide to the terminology:

A dictionary guide to the terminology of compound sentences

How to use compound sentences correctly

There are two punctuation rules to follow:

  1. You must place a comma before a coordinating conjunction —"I poured myself a glass of water, for I was thirsty."
  2. Always add a semicolon between the clauses if there's no coordinating conjunction. Don’t use a comma to join them, as this is grammatically incorrect and known as a “run-on sentence.”

While punctuation is important, there are other things to consider when you're editing compound sentences, as we explore below.

Does each independent clause contribute to the overall meaning?

Scan through your paragraphs and ask yourself if each independent clause is meaningful. Look for repetition or clauses that reiterate similar points.

Example: "Climate change is a crucial issue that needs action, but not enough people are addressing the problem."

In this sentence, there's no need to include two clauses since they both tell the reader that climate change needs more attention. It’s more concise to write, "Climate change is a crucial issue that people need to address."

The Wordtune Editor spots grammar mistakes and highlights opportunities to improve readability. To avoid lengthy and dull compound sentences, use the Editor for recommendations.

In the example below, I typed my sentence and waited for Wordtune's suggestions to appear. As you can see, it highlighted ways to make my sentence more concise, such as removing unnecessary words. For instance, it suggested I edit “or it can lead” into “or lead”.

Image of Wordtune Editor highlighting ways to make sentences more concise.

Are the clauses complete?

Be careful not to combine two clauses if one doesn't make a complete sentence. 


"Getting hair cut, but I need to be back in time for my virtual meeting."

“Getting hair cut” isn’t a complete sentence because it lacks a subject. "I'm getting my hair cut" would make it complete. If you're ever in doubt, type your clause into Wordtune. The Editor will highlight in red if your clause is incorrect.

Examples of compound sentences

To help you understand compound sentences, I’ve created a color code to highlight where the conjunction, verbs, and subjects are in each sentence.


Red = conjunction

Blue = verb

Purple = subject

Most of the attendees are about to finish the book, but Lucy has another chapter to read.

Why it works: “Most of the attendees are about to finish the book” and “Lucy has another chapter to read” are both individual sentences. Using the conjunction “but,” they can be combined into a single sentence.

The sentence also contains two subjects—“attendees” and “Lucy”—as well as two verbs—“finishing” and “read.”


Hamza frequently exercises at the gym, so he can build more muscle. 

Tip: If your sentence focuses on the same subject, ensure you include the subject twice. In this case, I used “Hamza” and “he.”


Claire doesn’t drink milk in her coffee, nor does she take sugar.

Tip: When using "nor," make sure the first part of your clause is negative. For example, “Claire doesn’t” is negative. If I said, “Claire drinks milk in her coffee, nor does she take sugar”, the sentence wouldn’t make grammatical sense.


I’m riding my bike today; Craig chose to walk.

Why it works: The semicolon goes between the two independent clauses, just like a conjunction. Remember not to include a comma when using a semicolon.

What are the benefits of using compound sentences?

Compound sentences are useful in several ways.

They fix run-on sentences

Run-on sentences have more than one independent clause without a comma and coordinating conjunction to separate them. They’re grammatically incorrect and difficult to read and understand, so fixing them is important.

Example of a run-on sentence:

"I love creating content on Instagram, I also use TikTok for content creation."

Notice how this sentence flows poorly because the two clauses are not connected. By adding a conjunction, you can make the two clauses into a compound sentence.

How to fix it with a compound sentence:

"I love creating content on Instagram, but I also use TikTok for content creation."

Tip: Read our guide on fixing run-on sentences for more examples.

They can make your writing flow better

A mix of simple and compound sentences adds variety to your writing and creates a more engaging flow.

Example 1:

"I've been up since 5am writing my essay. I can finish it before meeting my friends. We're off to the park to enjoy the sun."

Example 2:

“I've been up since 5am writing my essay so I can finish it before meeting my friends. We're off to the park to enjoy the sun."

In the second example, the use of the coordinating conjunction "so" makes it easier for the reader to understand why the writer woke up early. The second example also sounds better because it contains a compound sentence followed by a simple one. Too many simple sentences together can interrupt the reader's flow.

Expresses complex ideas concisely

This is particularly significant if you're writing about a difficult technical subject. By combining ideas in a single sentence, you can get your point across faster than using multiple sentences. 

But be careful not to join too many clauses and ideas, as very long sentences are also difficult to follow. A good rule of thumb is to join no more than two clauses. 


"The study was conducted to analyze the effects of exercise on cardiovascular health, yet the results on the participants were inconclusive."

Notice how this example explains the purpose of the study and the outcome all in one succinct sentence. 


Understanding compound sentence rules can take time, but with practice, you'll be able to identify them in no time. They add variety to your writing and can help convey complex thoughts.

Remember to double-check that each clause is a sentence on its own before connecting them. Ask yourself, does it contain a verb and a subject?

For more tips on improving your writing skills, read our guide on how to write concisely and check out our favorite methods to improve your vocabulary


How often should you use compound sentences in your writing?

While compound sentences can improve readability, overusing them can make your writing harder to read. Remember to include varied sentence lengths with a mix of compound and simple sentences.

What is the difference between a compound sentence and a simple sentence?

A simple sentence contains only one independent clause, while a compound sentence contains two or more. In a compound sentence, the clauses are joined by a semicolon or coordinating conjunction like "but," or "so."

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