Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Rules of Writing-Syntax-The Clause 1
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: June 09, 2013
While this book only scratches the surface of the subject of grammar, our goal is to list elements and concepts that every user of the language should recognize and know how to manipulate. We also strive to convey a rough idea about the roles of the different parts of speech and elements of syntax.
Sentences develop through phrases and clauses. Before we attempt a few examples, we must explain classification for each constituent of a sentence.
Different authors and texts confuse their readers by giving the same element contrary names. For instance, if we were asked to describe a book, we might say:
A. A stack of bound paper pages.
B. A vehicle to share facts, concepts or dreams.
If we wanted to describe a tool, we could use similar approaches. What’s an Allen key (also called an Allen wrench or Hex key)?
A. A length of hexagonal-section steel bent in different shapes.
B. An implement to loosen and tighten screws with an Allen head or slot.
In answer A, we describe what it is.
In answer B, we describe its functions.
In the sentence, “The old woman carried a pail of water to the chicken coop”:
A. “The old woman” is a noun phrase, (and a noun phrase is what it is).
B. “The old woman” is a subject, (that’s its function within the sentence).
Both are correct, depending on perspective.
While grammarians may blow a fuse at the lightness with which we sail over intricate or complex definitions, we aim to explain functions, not technicalities. Unless we plan to write about the language—instead of using it—knowing how to parse non-identifying relative clauses won’t help as much as knowing how clauses work within sentences.
In the English language there are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent. Independent clauses contain a subject and verb that represent a complete idea. Dependent clauses, though they also contain a subject and verb, cannot stand alone. They need to be joined with an independent clause in order to make sense. Dependent clauses are of three types: noun, adjective, and adverb.
In other words, a clause can be a sentence conveys a complete idea or a part of a sentence that does not. Either way, it contains its own subject and verb.
“Jesus wept,” is a clause. It has a subject and a verb and conveys the full idea.
“When Jesus wept,” is a clause. Though it has a subject and a verb, it doesn’t convey an idea in full. This clause is dependent because it needs an independent clause to finish it.
Over the next few pages, we’ll examine the main classes and types of clauses.
Why waste time with silly grammar concepts, rules, and regulations? I only want to write a novel.
Rewriting and editing, major components of successful fiction writing, demand that we understand the roles of different bits and pieces of prose. We need to acquire tools for streamlining our work, because tight, lean, and energetic prose keeps manuscripts out of the slush pile.
To work with sentences and identify their different types, we need to know how clauses work. Detecting fiendish errors like run-ons, comma splices, and the like that editors don’t want to see will become child’s play.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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