How to stop torturing your readers with boring writing

Reading time: About 3 minutes

If you’re producing boring writing, you need to figure out why. Could the problem be as simple as your sentence structure?

Do you ever worry that your writing is too boring?

Don’t fret — you’re not alone. Most writers are overwhelmingly self-critical. But the issue may not be you. Or your subject.

The problem may simply be a mechanical one. In short, it’s possible that you’re structuring too many of your sentences in exactly the same way.

Look at this piece of writing, from Chat GPT, for example:

“The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature review. The scholars analyzed the data using advanced statistical methods. The authors discussed the implications of their findings in the conclusion. The study aimed to contribute valuable insights to the existing body of knowledge in the field.”

Do you see how every one of those sentences begins in exactly the same way? Subject + Verb + Object. Of course, the problem is extra obvious in the example I’ve just given because each sentence begins with the word “the.”

Sometimes the issue may be harder to spot, but the resulting paragraph will be no less boring. For example:

“Climate change poses significant challenges to our environment. Increases in global temperatures affect ecosystems and weather patterns. Human activities contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. Governments and individuals need to take action to mitigate these effects and promote sustainable practices.”

Now, many fine sentences begin by placing the subject first, and I’d never suggest you try to avoid doing so. But just as you don’t want pasta for dinner every night or to read only the words of Jonathan Franzen, you also want your sentences to show a bit of variety.

Here are six different ways to begin sentences. Print out this column and use it as a guide to make sure you’re avoiding boring writing by giving your readers enough variety.

1-Subject (appears in roughly 53% of published writing)
  • “Marketing professionals, responsible for shaping brand perceptions, fostering customer engagement, and driving revenue growth through innovative campaigns and strategic initiatives, play a pivotal role in the success and sustainability of modern business.
  • “Alex, an avid nature enthusiast, eagerly embarks on weekend hiking adventures with friends.”
2-Subordinate clause (appears in roughly 16% of published writing)
  • “While conducting their research project in the university lab, Sarah and her colleagues collaborated on experimental procedures, gathered data meticulously, and engaged in insightful discussions.”
  • “As students embark on their academic journeys and grapple with the complexities of various subjects, those who seek diverse learning experiences, engage in critical thinking exercises, and collaborate with peers on research projects are likely to enjoy a more robust experience.”

[Other subordinate clauses begin with the words “because,” “since,” “although,” “when,” “if” and “until.”]

3-Coordinating conjunction (appears in roughly 10% of published writing)
  • “But I think many of us overlay this instrumental sense of obligation — “in order to have this, you’ll need to do that” — with the existential one described above: the feeling that you must get things done, not merely to achieve certain ends, but because it’s a cosmic duty you’ve somehow incurred in exchange for being alive.
  • “And in exploring the historical archives, uncovering forgotten narratives and engaging with local communities, we can gain a deeper understanding of our shared heritage, fostering a collective appreciation for the rich tapestry of stories that contribute to the diverse tapestry of our cultural identity.”

[Other coordinating conjunctions that might begin sentences are “yet,” “for,” “nor,” “or” and “so.”]

4-Verb followed by a subject (appears in roughly 9% of published writing)
  • “Look: there they are, on the done list! Few of them, perhaps, at least by comparison to the immeasurable galaxy of “things that need doing.”
  • “Review the latest project proposal, and then work collaboratively to elevate the efficiency and success of the upcoming initiative.”
5-Adverb (appears in roughly 7% of published writing)
  • “Swiftly adapting to the growing landscape of digital communication, James navigated through various social media platforms.”
  • “Effortlessly, we wandered through the bustling city streets, discovering charming cafes tucked away in quaint corners, leisurely sipping our coffees and engaging in animated conversations, creating a relaxed and enjoyable afternoon that blended exploration with delightful moments of connection.”
6-Gerund (appears in roughly 1% of published writing)
  • “Conducting thorough market research, including analyzing consumer trends, studying competitor strategies, and evaluating emerging technologies, is essential for companies aiming to develop robust marketing strategies and maintain a competitive edge.”
  • “Navigating the bustling city streets, we stumbled upon a lively street market, where vendors showcased an array of handmade crafts, street performers entertained the crowd, and the aroma of street food wafted through the air, creating a memorable experience for travellers.”

You will, of course, appreciate certain types of sentences more than others, but always be sure to incorporate a rich variety of types so you don’t inflict boring writing on your readers. I use the editing software ProWritingAid to help me. I just hit the button saying “structure” and it instantly analyzes all the sentences in my writing, telling me which kind each is.

If I don’t have enough sentences in a particular category, I just change some of them around to add more of a type I haven’t used frequently enough. This sort of editing makes my writing more varied and more interesting.

Also, as a former journalist, I have to add that my favourite type of sentence is the coordinating conjunction one. I begin many, many sentences with “but” or “and” (which is not a grammatical error as some school teachers wrongly believe).

And, if you want to seem friendlier, more approachable — and not an agent of boring writing — I suggest you do the same. See how I began that last sentence?


My video podcast last week addressed how to make Main Street more interesting. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


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How do you stop torturing your readers with boring writing? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section, below. And congratulations to Jan Mogelbjerg, the winner of this month’s book prize, for a comment on my Jan. 23/24 blog. (Please send me your email address, Jan!) If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by Feb. 29/24, I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To leave your own comment, please, scroll down to the section directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


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