Monday, March 19, 2012

Sentence Structure

Since I began writing and publishing almost 30 years ago, I have learned a few things about sentence structure; what to do and what not to do, and what may just be your particular form of writing--something you don't mess with.

When it comes to writing, each of us (hopefully) has our own voice. What we say and how we say it is unique to us. We write, and someone else doesn't think we are trying to mimic C.S. Lewis, for example, though it feels like a great compliment to be like him.

We have our own voice. Our own style. The words we write come from our heart and we're less concerned about writing great and more concerned with writing authentically.

Part of writing authentically means we get everything on paper (or computer) and then return to edit and improve. This is where sentence structure comes in. Some questions I ask myself at this stage are:

  • Is the sentence clear? When I read it out loud, does it make sense to me?
  • Do I have short sentences interspersed with long sentences? The long and the short of it is that short sentences are better for a blog. Long sentences work better for a novel. Yet, you don't want to over-run the reader with lengthy sentences without breaking them up with short ones. (Take a look at paragraph 3 of this blog. See how I've woven short and long sentences into one paragraph).
  • Do you favor long paragraphs? For most readers, they get lost in long paragraphs. If you have a particularly long paragraph, shorten it into two. You don't want to lose your reader by not providing them with enough white space. (White space is the space on the page empty of words). White space gives a rest to the reader's eyes, and makes the page more pleasant to read.
Hawaii, 2007
  • What is happening with my grammar; with my word choice? While it's important to keep our authentic voice in everything we write, it's also important that our word choice is the best we have--even if we have to  flip through a thesaurus. 
Though sentence structure, ultimately, is the building blocks of or voice, it's important to send our words out as clear and undiluted as possible. Like a vast ocean, we want to see into its depths. 


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