Quantifying Sentence Variety in English Learners





Written language, second language instruction, sentence variety, higher education


This article studies students’ use of sentence variety in an ESL writing course. The study includes three sentence features: (a) sentence types, (b) sentence combining, and (c) sentence patterns. Although sentence variety is part of the curriculum, the actual use of sentence structures has not been measured so far. By understanding students’ use of sentence structures, it is possible to propose valid curricular changes in the language program. This quantitative project has been carried out by analyzing 36 paragraphs written by students in the first writing course of a B.A. in English. The study included 433 sentences. Each sentence was examined individually. Data shows that 14.54% of the sentences presented a type of error. The types of errors included were the following: 12 fragments (2.77%), 29 fused sentences (6.69%), and 22 comma splices (5.08%). The remaining number of traditional sentences studied was 370 (85.45%). Results demonstrate that students favor certain types of structures and ignore others. Therefore, the demands of the curriculum and the written production of students lack coherence. Consequently, curricular changes must be incorporated to improve students’ written production.

Author Biography

William Charpentier-Jiménez, Universidad de Costa Rica

Works for Universidad de Costa Rica for more than ten years as professor and coordinator of several sections and projects. He holds a Masters degree in Applied Linguistics and a Masters degree in Higher Education Administration. Among his publications are Costa Rican Teachers’ Use of ICTs in the English Language Class and The Use of ICTs in the BA In English Teaching.


Abdullah, L., Kassim, R., Ghani, N. A. A., Rahman, H. A., & Zamin, A. A. M. (2019). Enhancing ESL writing using sentence variety checklist. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 9(13), 87-95. 10.6007/IJARBSS/v9-i13/6244

Altman, P., Caro, M., Metge-Egan, L., Roberts, L., & Wilson, P. (2018). Sentence-Combining workbook (5th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Brannan, B. (2010). A writer’s workshop: Crafting sentences, building paragraphs. McGraw-Hill.

Coombe, C., Folse, K., & Hubley, N. (2014). A practical guide to assessing english language learners. University of Michigan.

Dee Richeson, S. (2015). Sentence structure: The key to english usage, grammar and punctuation. CreateSpace.

Flores Mora, B., Alfaro Murillo, V., &Flores Mora, M. A.(2002). Basic english syntax. Editorial UCR.

Green, K. A. (2001). Correlation of factors related to writing behaviors and student -developed rubrics on writing performance and pedagogy in ninth-grade students (Publication No. 304723157). [Doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, United States]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Hacker, D. (2009). Rules for writers (6th ed.). Bedfordf/St. Martin’s.

Hauschild, K. (2013). English sentence patterns. Beau Monde Language Services.

Henry, D. J., & Kindersley, D. (2017). Writing for life: Paragraphs and essays (4th ed.). Pearson.

Hogue, A. (2007). First steps in academic writing (2nd ed.) Pearson-Longman.

Jenkins, P. A. (2000). Linguistic differences between male and female developmental writers (Publication No. 304670190). [Doctoral dissertation, Tennessee State University, United States]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Kelley, K. (2010). A critical examination of rubric use for evaluating individual writing assignments in the undergraduate classroom (Publication No. 1480134). [Doctoral dissertation, Western Illinois University, United States]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Kolln, M., & Funk, R. (2011). Understanding english grammar (9th ed.). Longman.

Nichols, A. E. (1965). English syntax. Advanced composition for non-native speakers. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Nosratinia, M., & Razavi, F. (2016). Writing complexity, accuracy, and fluency among EFL learners: Inspecting their interaction with learners’ degree of creativity. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 6(5), 1043-1052. https://doi.org/10.17507/tpls.0605.19

Penner, I. S. (2010). Comparison of effects of cognitive level and quality writing assessment (CLAQWA) rubric on freshman college student writing (Publication No. 3433058). [Doctoral dissertation, Liberty University, United States]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Reid, J. M. (2001). The process of composition (3ra ed.). Longman.

Reid, J. M. (2006). Essentials of teaching academic writing. Heinle Cengage Learning.

Saddler, B. (2002). An analysis of the effects of sentence combining practice on the writing of students with above- and below-average sentence combining skills (Publication No. 3078214). [Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, United States]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Solikhah, I. (2017). Correction on grammar, sentence variety and developing detail to qualify academic essay of indonesian learners. Dinamika Ilmu, 17(1), 115-129. https://doi.org/10.21093/di.v17i1.783

Sullivan, K. D., & Eggleston, M. (2006). The McGraw-Hill desk reference for editors, writers, and proofreaders. McGraw-Hill.

Swick, E. (2009). Practice makes perfect. English sentence builder. McGraw-Hill.

Tillema, M. (2012). Writing in first and second language: Empirical studies on text quality and writing processes [Doctoral thesis]. Utrecht University, Netherlands. https://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/241028

Wade, P. (2014). Sentence craft: A sentence-combining handbook paperback. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Wood, N., & Struc, N. (2013). A corpus-based, longitudinal study of syntactic complexity, fluency, sentence variety, and sentence development in L2 genre writing. Reitaku University Journal, 96, 1- 44.



How to Cite

Quantifying Sentence Variety in English Learners (W. Charpentier-Jiménez , Trans.). (2020). Revista Electrónica Educare, 24(3), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.15359/ree.24-3.26



Journal Articles (Peer Reviewed Section)

How to Cite

Quantifying Sentence Variety in English Learners (W. Charpentier-Jiménez , Trans.). (2020). Revista Electrónica Educare, 24(3), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.15359/ree.24-3.26

Comentarios (ver términos de uso)