Thursday, 18 February 2010

Writing: Sentence Structure

What makes an effective sentence? In one word: Comprehension!

What makes a sentence easier to comprehend? In two words: less words. As the number of words increase, so does the risk of incomprehension. Each sentence should only state one idea. If you have to state another idea, start another sentence.

That doesn't mean that writing double sentences or compound sentences aren't allowed. But, try not to use them too much. You risk losing the reader in your words.

You don't want to only write short sentences either. Imagine reading this: The boy went to the store. He bought milk. He brought it home. His mother thanked him. They had cereal for dinner. After, the boy washed the dishes. Together, they sat and watched Jeopardy. At eleven, they went to bed.
How monotonous!

You want to combine short and long sentences together. Not all too long, not all too short.

Put the subject close to the beginning of the sentence: Writers often bury the subject behind a lengthy clause, rendering the subject punchless. Obviously, there are times when the writer intends to highlight something other than the subject. It should, however, be done sparingly.

* Ineffective: Hurt more by the betrayal of his noble friend Brutus than by the shaky knife thrusts of Casca, Cassius, and Decius, Caesar collapsed and died.
* Effective: Caesar collapsed and died, hurt more by the betrayal of his noble friend Brutus than by the shaky knife thrusts of Casca, Cassius, and Decius.

Use active voice, not passive voice.

* Ineffective: Frank was very angry at Ted's betrayal.
* Effective: Ted's betrayal angered Frank..


Take it as it Comes gave me this award. Thank you so much...I needed a happiness reminder on this gray day.

1) My son!
2) Coffee!
3) My friend and husband, who will kill me for listing him third. (This list is in no particular order...)
4) Writing
5) Sleeping
6) Showering
7) My dog and her cute wrinkly little face.
8) My nieces and nephews
9) Dancing like a crazy person
10) A good old fashioned locked room puzzle or any puzzle for that matter.

I give this award to:
1) Coffee Rings Everywhere for making me cry this morning. Rayna's blog made me cry!
2) Tirz at A Clever Whatever, you need a bit of cheering up!
3) Martin Edwards
4) Elizabeth Spann Craig
5) Corra at from the desk of a writer
(Some of you may already have it...but, it's good publicity anyway.)


Carol Kilgore said...

Congrats on the award! And good reminders about sentence structure. I'm editing and just began on a new chapter. The first sentence was 37 words long. What was I thinking!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the award!! :)

Great post, Ann. My sentences tend to be indirect, I thi8nk, so I found this decidedly helpful.


from the desk of a writer

Kristen said...

You're welcome! How did I forget sleeping and showering on my list?! Very good things :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Another great post! I've tweeted it. And thanks for the award, Ann!


Ann Elle Altman said...

Carol, thank you. I think we all sometimes create sentences this one.

Corra, glad you accepted the award and liked the post.

Kristen, thanks so much. It' funny two mundane tasks I value so much.

Elizabeth, thanks and thanks!


Kimberly Franklin said...

One of my favorite things to do is play around with sentence structures. I'm weird, I know. lol. Love the post and congrats on the award!!!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Kimberley, thanks. Glad you like it.


Jemi Fraser said...

Comprehension is indeed key. I like shorter, punchier sentences for the most part, but I certainly couldn't write with only them.

Natasha said...

Another wonderful post, Ann. Don't often comment because I haven't done any writing all year and am feeling a bit ashamed of myself, but I do love your posts.

Congratulations on your Award, and thank you for passing it on to me. I am honoured.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Jemi, yes, don't write only them. You'd be so bored.

Rayna, glad you liked the award, and I think you are a daily writer!


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