Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Technical Flaws-Variety-Sentence Structure
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: March 31, 2013
Writing that uses mostly short sentences tends to be choppy, which can be annoying to read. On the other hand, writing that contains mostly long, complex sentences tends to be boring and is often difficult to understand. Neither is a good choice.
Good writers use a variety of sentence lengths and types in their writing. We have four sentence types to choose from when building our prose or creating our rhythm. These are categorized by the clauses they contain. A clause, as defined in the grammar sections, is a part of a sentence containing a subject and a predicate.
Simple sentences contain a single, independent clause.
She hated spiders.
The diner would close before dark.
Mary loves chocolate-covered cherries.
Compound sentences contain two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, so, etc).
Each of these could be written in two separate sentences.
She hated spiders, and her husband adored them.
The diner must be closed before dark, or creatures of the night will eat the patrons for dinner.
Mary loves chocolate coated cherries, but her waistline does not.
Complex sentences contain an independent clause and a dependent clause.
She hated spiders because of their ability to hide in the most inconvenient places.
The diner would be closed before dark, since the creatures roamed the streets at that time.
Although they do not love her, Mary loves chocolate covered cherries.
Compound-complex sentences have two or more clauses. At least two of those clauses are independent and at least one is independent and at least one is dependent.
She hated spiders, and her husband adored them, which caused their marital problems.
The diner closed before dark, averting an attack, and the patrons lived safely through the night.
With a passion, Mary loved chocolate-covered cherries, but her waistline did not.
Fragments contain a dependent clause alone.
Because these don’t contain a noun and a verb, they are fragments. Complete sentences must have at least one noun and one verb.
When rewriting, writers must identify problematic sentences. When a cluster of shorter sentences is spotted, determine if they can be combined or added to in order to insert a longer sentence to balance it out. For example:
John loved the winter. Snow meant skiing. Skiing meant girls. He loved girls more than winter. The slopes waited. He tossed his skis in the trunk. Where was Matt? Late as usual.
This paragraph doesn’t create intensity with its short sentences. It’s clunky and needs cleaning up. To rewrite, we must look at what’s needed, and what might be combined to create variety.
John loved snow. It meant skiing, which meant girls, and John loved girls more than anything. He tossed his skis in the trunk. Where was Matt?
We’ve rewritten from several simple sentences and a fragment to a variety of sentence types. This balances the prose, and cleans it up. The fragment isn’t needed, so we delete it.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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