What are “choppy” sentences?
If a draft has too many short sentences in a row, then it can feel “choppy” to read. Consider the difference between these two paragraphs:
Small sentences are boring to read. Many of them strung together look bad. They appear simple. This can make your thoughts look simple, too. It's like you can't sustain an idea for more than a few words. You can think in only trivial, simplistic ways. Small thoughts seem to come from small minds. You could leave your reader with the impression of simplemindedness. Is that what you want?
Small sentences are boring to read and, in fact, many of them strung together look bad because they can appear simple. If your thoughts look simple, it will seem like you can't sustain an idea for more than a few words and can think in only trivial, simplistic ways. Since small thoughts seem to come from small minds, you could leave your reader with the impression of simplemindedness. Is that what you want?1
Correcting choppy sentences
Join sentences together with conjunctions2
If multiple sentences relate directly to each other, show that logical connection by joining them together with words like and, but, or yet. (Depending on the conjunction you choose, you may also need to include a comma.)
Doonesbury cartoons satirize contemporary politics. Readers don't always find this funny. They demand that newspapers not carry the strip.
Doonesbury cartoons laugh at contemporary politicians, but readers don't always find this funny and demand that newspapers not carry the strip.
Subordinate some sentences together2
If one sentence builds on the content of another sentence, show that relationship by breaking up one sentence and inserting it into the other along with words like although, since, if...then... or because. Frequently, this will also require the inclusion of at least one comma.
The US has been highly dependent on foreign oil for many years. Alternate sources of energy are only now being sought.
Although the US has been highly dependent on foreign oil for many years, alternate sources are only now being sought.
Integrate multiple sentences together3
One way to do this is through the use of appositives (phrases that provide additional information about a noun, typically offset by a pair of commas).
Jesse Ventura has denied an interest in running for the senate. Ventura is the former governor of Minnesota.
Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, has denied an interest in running for the senate.
Another way is by simply restructuring your prose to provide multiple pieces of information in fewer sentences.
The boy asked his father a question. The boy is five years old. The question was about death.
The five-year-old boy asked his father a question about death.
Remember: short sentences are not necessarily bad. But, just as with the sentences that we speak, we want to make sure that the sentences we write vary in length. Sometimes, that means that our sentences will be long and descriptive. And, sometimes, they’ll be short!