Friday, April 22, 2011

(A-Z Blog Challenge) S = Sentence Construction

Writers constantly need to check out their whole text, their chapters, their scenes, their paragraphs, their sentences and finally, their words (not in that order, of course).

For me, it's a veritable mine-field at sentence-level. We looked the other day at how to avoid sounding like a machine-gun tat-tat-tattering away using only short-sentences, and today I'd like to look at variety in sentence-construction (my own bug-bear).

Punctuation, of course, plays a huge part in the meaning of a sentence. Look at these three examples: 
1. I walked into the room and the plumber was there.
2. I walked into the room, and the plumber was there.
3. I walked into the room. And the plumber was there.
Which one makes you think, hello, hello, hello - what's going on here then?

We all know from grammar 101 that the most common sentence structure in English is: subject + verb + object
...unless you use the Passive Voice which, normally, should be avoided at all costs (because it's unwieldy and indirect).

All well and good. But that's not the only problem: I keep using the same sentence structure: "she went, he saw, they thought" - you get the message. What happens then is that I lose rhythm. So what are the variations in sentence structure?

1. Sitting next to...
2. Without planning...
3. Discouraged by the long hours...
Or using these:
1. When he sat down...
2. By sheer coincidence...
3. What were the odds that...
4. Once inside the supermarket...
5. Though he didn't make much noise...
6. Guided by some...

If you have any more tips I'll be forever in your debt if you'd add them in the comments :) . 
Anyone having problems with grammar, don't forget the traditional rule (yuk)- book: Elements of Style



  1. Bookmarking this post now - great tips!

  2. Thanks Siv. Crikey Alex - I've pleased you! Yowza!

  3. OMG, I wish I had something brilliant to say but I don't because this is ONE of my weaknesses. Grrrr. I'm bookmarking this post though, because I forgot grammar 101.

  4. Passive voice was something I finally learned not to do. :P

    I love playing with the rhythm of sentences. It really bothers me if they all start sounding alike -- subject, verb, object. Subject, verb, object. Gotta mix it up.

    Happy Easter to you too!

  5. I took English in College(in India) and the medium of instruction in my primary and secondary schools was English. I am a grandma and I still feel sometimes that my English grammer could improve. English is a beautiful langauge, but some times I really don't understand the small details. I read Elements of Style by, Strunk and White more than a dozen times and I still am not able to satisfy my kids(here in America) with my writing cause they expect perfection:(

  6. Julie, it's so annoying isn't it? Especially when you don't realize you're doing it..."he went, she decided..." dear oh dear.
    L.G.Yes you gotta mix it up. But that's not easy
    Muir, thank you for commenting. Your written English looks lovely on here - perfect!

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  8. Wow! The cheap online proofreading services are here to check grammar mistakes in sentence or in article. I am sure that it will be applicable in all books or articles. Good post!


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