When two independent clauses are equally important and about the same topic, they are coordinate and can be joined together in the same sentence by a coordinating conjunction or conjunctive adverb. Remember that independent clauses are clauses that can stand alone as complete sentences. By conjoining them you create compound sentences, which helps you improve the complexity of your writing and avoid having too many short, simple sentences.
When two independent clauses are coordinate, they can be joined by a coordinating conjunction. Coordinating conjunctions usually appear in the middle of a sentence, after a comma. They are commonly remembered by the acronym “FANBOYS,” where each letter stands for a coordinating conjunction: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.
Examples of independent clauses joined by coordinating conjunctions:
One benefit of group study is that students learn others’ perspectives, and each member has a unique insight to offer to the group.
Lacking in women’s issues today is one major unifying movement, but feminists are working on addressing a variety of issues that affect a diversity of women and men.
Texting while driving is illegal in this state, yet it is still a major cause of car accidents.
We can meet at the restaurant, or I can pick you up at your place.
Notice that some of these words have other functions when they are not acting as coordinating conjunctions, in which case they may not follow a comma. In the following sentences, “and,” “or,” and “for” are not serving as coordinating conjunctions and do not need a comma.
Next semester I’m taking English and math.
I am going to take either English 180 or English 250A.
I am looking for an English class that fulfills a GE requirement.
Two independent clauses of equal importance and similar emphasis can also be joined by a conjunctive adverb. Conjunctive adverbs usually occur in the middle of a sentence, and are preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma. Here are some common conjunctive adverbs:
To show addition
To show contrast
on the other hand
To show result
as a result
To show a specific case
To strengthen a point
Examples of independent clauses joined by conjunctive adverbs:
Students feel pressure to prepare themselves before group-study sessions to avoid disappointing the group; therefore, students spend more time studying individually as well.
Lacking in women’s issues today is one major unifying movement; however, feminists are
working on addressing a variety of issues that affect a diversity of women and men.
Texting while driving is illegal in this state; nevertheless, it is still a major cause of car accidents.
There were no vegetarian items on the menu; consequently, I filled up on complimentary bread.
Now look at your own writing. Focus on one paragraph, and locate independent clauses and dependent clauses in that paragraph. Do you have several independent clauses standing alone as simple sentences? Find two simple sentences and combine them by adding a dependent word to one of them, and a comma if necessary. Make sure, however, that the sentences in your paragraph are not all the same type. Try putting the dependent clause at the beginning of some sentences and the end of others. Remember that variety makes writing more interesting.