Need Help Revising Sentences? Try These 10 Top Exercises

Do you want to learn master the art of revising sentences? We offer 10 top exercises anyone can try.

No matter how long you have been writing, you can always take the next step to improve your writing a little.

Whether you are writing fiction or other creative writing types, trying to start a business writing for online audiences, or just looking to practice writing to improve your skills overall, fear not.

Here are some exercises to improve your english writing skills.

1. Swap The Passive Voice for the Active Voice

This isn’t a formal lesson or exercise on a website, but it’s super effective. Learn how to recognize passive voice, and start putting it to death in your writing. Active voice uses the form subject-verb-object, while passive voice transforms the object into the subject of the sentence, like this:

The pizza was eaten by the hungry teenagers.

Learn to recognize this and get rid of it when it’s not needed. In almost every instance, it isn’t needed. Good writers will learn to tell the difference and use the passive voice effectively when the exceptions truly exist. In short, watch out for sentences that end in “ed” or “en”, for example:

  • …it was claimed..
  • …it was eaten…
  • …it was proved that..

When in doubt, use active verbs like:

  • He claimed that…
  • I ate the…
  • She proved that
Hemmingway App
Hemingway Editor is a good tool for revising sentences

If you need help learning to recognize passive voice, run your work through the Hemingway App or Grammarly. Both tools will identify passive voice and help you change it to active to tighten up your writing.

Want more? Check out our guide to the best writing apps.

2. Use the Correct Point of View

Fix a sentence for the correct point of view is a quick and easy win. The correct point of view depends on who you're writing for and the style guide for the publication in question.

In informal writing, use the first person or second person i.e. “I” or “You.”

In a business article, academic essay or research paper, use the third person e.g. “She”, “He” or “They.”

In formal writing, also use the third person.

Generally, it's a bad idea to switch between point of view in a single piece. Obviously, you can break that rule if you're writing something more creative like literary fiction or a short story.

3. Challenge Yourself with New Words

Exercises to improve writing skills
Follow these exercises for revising sentences

New words can liven up your writing and make it more interesting. Challenge yourself to write a piece that has a certain number of new words properly used in context.

Where can you find new words? Often writers build their vocabularies by reading. Make sure you are reading many different types of works, and keep a notebook of new vocabulary that you would like to weave into your own writing.

4. Limit Your Words

While adding new words is good, so is learning to limit your words. If you can say something in 20 words that you would normally say in 50, the 20 words are better. Strong writing is concise writing. So, don't be afraid to eliminate unncessary words.

One of the best exercises to improve writing skills is giving yourself an upper word limit. Then, lower that word limit during the rewriting stage. Take out adverbs and adjectives that don’t affect the meaning, and shorten that piece up.

This approach will force you write in simple sentences and practice discipline with your word-choice.

5. Use a Grammar Checker

Grammarly-Business grammar checker
Here, you can see Grammarly revising sentences

A good grammar checker scans a piece of writing and identifies weak and clumsy sentences during the writing process. For example, Grammarly will highlight potential english grammar errors, like a run-on sentence. It also proposes copyedits for complex sentences that you can change or accept.

These tools are faster more efficient than relying on Word for revising sentences.

6. Read Your Work Aloud

If you want to find a complex sentence, read your work aloud and record yourself with your phone or a voice record. If you struggle to read more than a few lines, that's a sign of a complex sentence at work.

Similarly, while listening back to your work, if you hear something that sounds wordy, simplify the sentence structure, so it sounds more natural for the reader.

This approach also helps with spotting errant typos during the revision process.

7. Separate Writing and Proofreading

It's all but impossible to write and proofread at the same time. Both activities engage different parts of your brain. When working on a first draft, focus on that.

Later on, when it's time to revise sentences, focus on proofreading. Ask yourself

  • It this clear?
  • Is this concise?
  • Is this error-free?
  • Did I miss any typos?

8. Print Out Your Work

If it's more than few hundred words long, format your work in an easy to read font like Courier or Courier Prime. Ensure it's set to at least size fourteen and 1.5 or double-spaced. Then, print it out.

This formatting approach helps you spot sentence errors more easily on the page. Plus, you can annotate your manuscript with copyedits by writing in the spaces between sentences.

Alternatively, use a tablet and a PDF reader, and mark up the manuscript with a stylus.

9. Look for Sentence Fragments

A sentence fragment is a sentence that lacks a dependent clause or doesn't' form a complete thought. It's common in texts and social media posts. For example:

  • Because of the paper shortage.
  • Looking forward to our dinner
  • I ate.

In each case, these sentence fragments are conversational, but they are also incomplete. That might be ok in an informal setting or on social media. However, sentence fragments are frowned on in academic writing, business writing and various types of journalism.

When in doubt, write in complete sentences

  • I didn't print out my work because of the paper shortage.
  • I am looking forward to our dinner
  • I ate dinner already.

10. Get Your Apostrophes Right

A contraction combines two words into one by removing letters, therefore shortening the word.

You probably use contractions in speech frequently. However, when you write, you might not be as aware of such contractions. 

That's where apostrophes come in. This frequently misused punctuation mark takes the place of the missing letters. Use apostrophes for informal writing and take then out for formal writing.

Here’s“here” and “is”
It’s“it” and “is”
There’s “there” and “is”
Don’t“do” and “not”
I’m “I” and “am”
Hasn’t, Haven’t“has” or “have” and “not”
Let’s “let” and “us”

11. Check For Correct Commas

Many popular grammar rules apply to the usage of commas, but rather than letting those rules overwhelm you, try to remember commas help clarify the meaning of your sentences.

If you know what a complete sentence is, you're on your way to understanding using commas correctly. When in doubt, use a comma when combining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction i.e look for these words

  • for
  • and
  • nor
  • but
  • or
  • yet
  • so

e.g. The writer struggled find clients, so his friend helped him.

Tip: Put together, the letters spell “fanboys,” a good way of remembering coordinating conjunctions and where to use commas.

That said, feel free to ignore the grammar nazis.

12. Evaluate the Readability of Your Work

Complex language is confusing for readers. So explain abbreviations in the first instance and avoid multi-syllable or unusual words unless necessary.

Use a readability score to determine if a specific sentence of your own writing is too complex.

A good writer should be able to get across the main points of their piece, while writing something that a 7th grade level student can understand, based on the Flesch-Kincaid score.

The Final Word About Revising Sentences

Whether you are learning English or are a seasoned writer, revising sentences is part of the writing process. Your pieces will become stronger using these tips, but if you still need help, check out our self-editing checklist.

FAQs

how to change active sentence to passive voice?

Locate the subject and object in the sentence in question. The subject takes the action and the object is affected by this action. Now, place the subject at the end of the sends and the object at the start. You may also want to remove attribution. So “The dog bit the cat” changes to “The cat was bitten by the dog.”

what is the best way to revise this sentence?

When asking this question about any sentence, ask yourself: is it clear, concise and easy to read? If in doubt during the writing process, remove complex words, simplify the language and write with the active voice.

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Authors

  • Bryan Collins runs things around here. He's also a non-fiction writer and author.

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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