Long and Short: Sentences

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Importance of Sentence Variety

My niece was here this weekend and we talked about her college writing experience. She said they try to change her habitual writing of high school into something more sophisticated. For example, they eschew the five-paragraph essay, rightly so. Instead, they look for more sophisticated structures.

But when I teach writing, I focus on not just on structures, but on the craft of writing itself. It begins with sentences, especially with sentence variety: long, short, simple, complex, convoluted, straight forward, building with a series, stopping abruptly, or continuing forward to complete a thought.

One of the most helpful things I ever did was work through The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success. It forces you to look at sentences in all their simplicity, complexity and glory.

For example, do you know how–it’s really easy–to interrupt a sentence with another sentence and correctly punctuate it? The patterns encourage writers to gain control of their language and punctuation, to throw fear of commas and semi-colons and colons out the window, and start writing what they want to write.

Summer Challenge

Summer is a challenging time for some writers because kids are home. So here’s a perfect challenge for you, a challenge that will improve your writing with very little effort!

Are you holding back because you don’t know how to punctuate something? Try this summer challenge with a partner: each week choose a new sentence pattern and use it somewhere at least five times. Have your partner check up and make sure it was used correctly. The first few patterns are simple, but the book builds in complexity. You’ll come out of the summer with a stronger control of the language you use in any context, but it will particularly help your fiction. Really. (Isn’t THAT a great sentence fragment, used correctly? You need to control even those rogues.)

After you’ve worked through the patterns in this book, there are two a final challenges.

  • Write at least a 100 word sentence, correctly punctuated.
  • Correctly use a sentence fragment. Really.

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4 Comments
  • Violeta
    May 31, 2011

    You know, I like fragments, whatever people say, or grammar books for that matter, lol. But I’m curious as to how they can be applied correctly and not break the rules! I want to KNOW! :D

  • Darcy Pattison
    June 3, 2011

    OK. I’ll do a post about them next week. ; )
    Darcy

  • Patti Mallett
    June 3, 2011

    Thanks, Darcy! After reading this post, I immediately ordered the book! It arrived yesterday (fast!!) and I tore it open and started reading. Buying it used, it was a happy moment to see the words “English Dept. Book” on the inside cover. With yellow highlighter, I’ve been pouring over Chapter 1 and can see already what a huge help this book is going to be. My knowledge of the Technical Aspects of the English Language have faded through the years and I am in need of this type of Homework! Gracias!!!

  • Darcy Pattison
    June 4, 2011

    Patti:
    Glad you like it! It’s such a great resource and helped me gain control of language!
    Darcy