Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sentence Structure Matters

Content takes center stage in our writing, but sentence structure counts, too.. The kinds of sentences you use matter in what we might call 'readability.'  Let's take a look at a few kinds.

1. Overly long I once knew a man who was a fabulous writer, but his sentence length had no rival. One sentence could go on and on and.... If he read his own work aloud, he would immediately see the problem.  He'd run out of breath long before he ran out of sentence!

2.  Short and choppy In the other extreme is the sentemce that appears to be missing something. The main idea is there, but it leaves no room for lyrical moments. Some writers use a lot of this type of sentence and when they do, there appears to be little flow to the writing. It feels harsh.

3.  Too many adjectives We're always being told to use descriptive words, add adjectives to nouns to bring them to life for a reader. Good advice, but some writers, especially beginners, can carry it to extremes. A long sentence loaded with adjectives, or one noun with three adjectives is over the top. In this case, less is better. Often less becomes stronger writing.

4.  Try a blend  Instead of all short sentences or lots of very long ones, use some of each. A short sentence in-between two long ones helps create a balance.

When you're ready to look at a story with revision in mind, look at your sentence structure as well as the content. Read it aloud. It's the best way to catch problems of various kinds, but particularly sentence structure.

If you want some detailed help, google 'sentence structure' and you'll find enough to keep you busy into next Tuesday!

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