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Sentence patterns from Mr. Haskett
Terms in this set (41)
USE STRONG ACTIVE VERBS
Strong active verbs bring life and description to your paper by more accurately identifying an action and by adding emphases, connotations, or by merely making a common phrase stand out.
1. The tragic accident devastated the entire family.
2. The recorder intercepted many of the secret messages.
3. The author employs three unique symbols—a cherry tree, an empty crypt, and a gold watch.
4. The woman scrutinized every inch of the love letter.
5. Richard Wright's novels demand literary attention.
6. Why did you hatchet that defenseless freshman with an acerbic remark?
OPEN WITH AN ADVERB
An adverb modifies (changes the meaning of) a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs answer these questions: How? When? Where? Why? How much? How many times? Many adverbs in the English language end in -ly.
Use a comma after an adverb as an opener if the adverb receives special stress.
1. Anxiously, the reader awaits the explosive climax of Lord of the Flies.
2. Clearly, the boys have landed on an island similar to the Garden of Eden.
3. Unfortunately, Simon must battle dark forces beyond his control.
4. Presently, the Count enters the room.
5. Brilliantly, the stars shine in the night sky.
OPEN WITH A PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
A prepositional phrase describes direction (from the hill); describes position (above the door); tells time (at dinner); provides description (with a pen); or shows some abstract relationship (except Jack, for the party, of independence). Prepositional phrases modify nouns or verbs; therefore, they fulfill the purposes of both adverbs and of adjectives. Use a comma after a long introductory prepositional phrase or if the phrase requires special stress; omit it after relatively short phrases. A short listing of prepositions by use follows:
Direction: along, down, from, into, over, through, toward, up
Position: above, across, against, among, amongst, around, at, before, behind, beneath, beside, between, by, in, off, on, under, upon, within
Time: after, at, before, by, during, in, until, within
Means: by, with, without
Abstract: against, except, for, of
1. In the 1930s leftists lived in constant fear of the so-called White Terror imposed by the Nationalist secret police.
2. Without plan or purpose, the main character put the gun in her pocket and headed out the door.
3. During the day he read The Scarlet Letter.
4. At the moment of the earthquake, the telephone rang.
5. For his gold I had no desire.
OPEN WITH AN INFINITIVE
Verbals make sentences more active.
The English language has three verbals:
Verbals are half-verb, half another part of speech. Verbals look like verbs, but they function as another part of speech. Verbals are half-verb, half another part of speech.
Verbals may function as
Infinitive = to + (base form of the verb)
Noun: To improve one's mind is worthwhile.
"To improve one's mind" is a noun phrase and the subject of the sentence.
Adverb: She struggled to improve her mind.
"to improve" functions like an adverb because it tells why she struggled.
Adjective: He had a desire to improve his mind.
"to improve" functions like an adjective because it describes his desire.
There are three ways to form infinitive phrases:
1. By combining with adverbs: To sit quietly by himself is all he wanted.
2. By combining with prepositional phrases: To sing in the shower became a daily habit.
3. By taking objects: To see her name on the door of the Oval Office she yearned.
1. To make a long story short, Bob, as usual, won the argument.
2. To show how lazy Sam had become, I will show you the pool of drool on his desk.
3. To get into my car, I had to break the window.
4. To arrive at an understanding, Stephanie had to slap his face.
5. To speak French became Phil's primary goal.
6. To understand with perception constitutes commendable character.
OPEN WITH A PRESENT PARTICIPLE
Participles = half verb + half adjective
Present participles are formed by adding —ing to a verb: swimming, running, jumping, twisting, screaming, singing, kicking Example: Swimming across the ocean, he was eaten by a shark.
3 ways to form participle phrases (same as infinitives!)
1. By combining with an adverb: Writing hurriedly, I cried.
2. By combining with a prepositional phrase: Writing in my diary, I lied.
3. By taking an object: Writing the last page, I sighed.
Misplacing a participle phrase will lead to big problems! Don't do this:
Standing on the hilltop, the sky was red and golden. What is standing on the hilltop?
I saw a dollar walking down the street. You saw what?
Driving down the freeway, a cemetery was on the left. Zombies don't drive!
1. Exploring the theme of alienation, Sandra Cisneros pits Esperanza, the protagonist, against the American Mainstream, the Latino culture, and even her family.
2. Gazing at roses, Gabby stood in the garden.
3. Watering the flowers, James enjoyed the sunny day.
4. Stepping on the porch, I saw my dog gnawing on the mailman's shoe.
5. Depicting Tom Joad's anger, Steinbeck sets the stage for violence.
6. Raising his hand, Marc Antony silenced the throng.
7. Dying of stab wounds, Caesar mutters, "Et tu, Brute?"
OPEN WITH A GERUND
Gerunds = half verb + half noun
Just like present participles, gerunds are formed by adding —ing to a verb.
Swimming, fishing, running, sleeping, driving, all these words could be gerunds or present participles.
HOWEVER, the big difference is how they function!
While present participles function as adjectives, gerunds function as nouns. As a noun, gerunds can be:
1. Subject of a sentence: Driving a tractor appealed to him.
2. Predicate noun: My specialty is fencing.
3. Object of a preposition: For silencing her screaming we thanked him.
There are three ways gerunds form phrases (just like infinitives and participles!):
1. By combining with an adverb: Driving dangerously is criminal.
2. By combining with a prepositional phrase: Driving across Texas is exhausting.
3. By taking an object: Driving a car takes patience.
1. Opening the heavy gate took longer than he thought.
2. Courting Dora became David Copperfield's reason for existence.
3. Saving the Queen is OO7's mission.
4. Standing in the doorway blocks the view.
5. Using metaphors adds to the symbolism of Melville's whale.
6. Writing essays posed no problems for her.
7. Finding her identity consumed Esperanza.
8. Driving recklessly epitomizes irresponsibility.
9. Communicating with his parents became an arduous task.
10. Punishing Hester Prynne for adultery contradicted a basic tenet of Christianity: forgiveness.
WRITE A SENTENCE IN WHICH THE VERB PRECEDES THE SUBJECT (ANASTROPHE)
Placing the verb before the subject in a sentence is also known as a form of "anastrophe," the inversion of the natural word order (subject-verb-object) which dominates the English language. The following sentences open with adverbs or prepositional phrases. Notice that the verb precedes the subject.
1. Beside the house grew a large maple tree.
2. Along the avenue sped Adam's new Trans Am.
3. Closer and closer floated the blimp.
4. Across the page sear the frightening images.
5. Higher and higher rose the suspense.
Appositives—nouns or pronouns—extend the meaning of preceding nouns or pronouns. As nonrestrictive (or non-essential) modifiers, they require commas to set them off from the rest of the sentence. Restrictive (essential) appositives and those used as part of a person's name require no commas.
Appositives define, identify, or rename ideas, objects, places, or people. An appositive consists of a noun (I love my mother, Gertrude!) or a noun phrase (I hate my uncle, that incestuous regicide!)
Non-example: Carmen, who loves small furry creatures, is a great person!
1. Alan Lupo, a onetime reporter and dogged historical researcher, provides some thoughtful answers.
2. George Eliot, a great 19th century novelist, wrote with sympathy, wisdom, and realism about English country people and small towns.
3. Penicillin, a powerful drug, has won medical acceptance.
4. In a touching tribute to George Gershwin, a famous American composer, the orchestra played "Rhapsody in Blue".
5. Cormier's brilliant simile, "her eyes like shattered marbles," makes visual the mother's terror.
6. Huck Finn, a coming of age novel, depicts a boy journeying down the Mississippi River, encountering every aspect of unseemly life.
7. William the Conqueror invaded England from Normandy.
8. A former San Jose Spartan quarterback, Jeff Garcia, has played for the San Francisco 49ers and now is no longer in the NFL.
9. Andy Kaddaber, that gleeful mortician, fell into despair when his afternoon appointment suddenly wrapped her fingers around his throat.
OPEN WITH AN ADVERBIAL CLAUSE
An adverbial clause has a subject and predicate, but cannot stand alone, serving as part of the sentence. Adverbial clauses modify verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or main clauses. They usually express a relationship of time, place, direction, cause, effect, condition, manner, or concession. Here is a list of some common subordinating conjunctions:
If Until Since Before
Though Although As long as If only
As if when Unless Because
Wherever In order that As After
While So that Whereas Whenever
Provided that Even though As though Just as
When an adverbial clause opens a sentence, follow it with a comma.
1. After she seized control, the situation changed drastically.
2. Although he chirped away like a happy bird, I knew John's sorrow.
3. Because Edgar Allen Poe writes with unique structure and vocabulary, readers readily recognize his works.
4. Before I could even get to my feet to defend myself, she bent down and gave me a clip across the ear.
5. If the barometer drops sharply, a change in the weather will occur.
6. After the school bell tolled the doom of all in earshot, Dominic Yang declared himself king of the universe!
7. Because Rahel laments the dead bunnies strewn across her porch, strange cats are no longer welcome.
8. After Young Boy returned, Bailey Wang felt complete.
USE PARALLEL STRUCTURE IN WORDS, PHRASES, AND SENTENCES
Parallel structure places words, phrases, clauses, and sentences in a series of the same grammatical elements. Creating parallel constructions shows the reader that two or more things relate to each other with equal importance. Think of railroad tracks, which run parallel to one another. If one track bends along the line, a train goes off the rails. The same happens to a reader: if ideas do not run parallel, the reader goes off the track of logical thought.
1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity....
2. He drew her to him, whispered in her ear, and kissed her.
3. The professor told us to write in ink, to use only yellow paper, and to create four margins.
4. Pearl Buck proved her craft: through her dynamic sentence structure, her suspenseful plot, and her enduring theme.
5. He expressed gratitude to his teachers, to his parents, and to the school system.
USE PARALLEL STRUCTURE WITH CORRELATIVE CONJUNCTIONS
Correlative conjunctions work only in pairs. It is crucial that you have the same grammar construction following each conjunction.
Remember that when "either" is used without "or" and "neither" is used without "nor," "either" and "neither" act as an adjective or a pronoun.
Either movie seems to be a good choice. (adjective)
Either seems like a good choice to me. (pronoun)
Neither book was good. (adjective)
Neither was good. (pronoun)
either / or neither / nor
not only / but also whether / or
1. Either go to bed early this evening or stop complaining about being tired in class.
2. Neither the contestant nor his sponsor was willing to attend the lecture.
3. The newspaper reported that not only the hurricane but also the ensuing floods caused millions of dollars worth of damage.
4. Does anyone know whether the president or the vice president was responsible for providing the announcement to the press?
5. Arny will either rejoin the cross country team or exhaust his passion for running by chasing squirrels.
OPEN WITH AN ADJECTIVE
An adjective describes or points out a noun or pronoun. It tells what kind, what color, what number, which one, whose. Adjectives allow distinguishing and specification. They add descriptive details. They also limit or make more definite the meaning of a key word. Typically, adjectives immediately precede the words they modify; however, pulled away from those words and placed on the front of the sentence followed by a pausing comma, they gain emphasis.
1. Breathless and weary, he trudged down the road.
WRONG: He trudged down the road, breathless and weary.
2. Fearful, the hunter fled through the jungle.
3. Happy, Taylor announced her graduation from medical school.
4. Verbose, Charles Dickens stretched his Great Expectations into 36 serialized segments.
5. Cold, the football players stayed near the fire.
OPEN WITH AN ADJECTIVE PHRASE
Adjective phrases consist of adjectives and a group of words, often a prepositional phrase, without subject or verb. Adjective phrases serve the same function as adjectives: they modify nouns and pronouns. They also describe what kind, what color, what number, which one, and whose.
Adjective phrases consist of adjectives plus a group of words, often a prepositional phrase, without a subject and verb.
Adjective phrases serve the same function as adjectives: they modify nouns or pronouns. They also tell what kind, what color, how many, which one, whose.
Placed as a sentence opener, an adjective phrase ends with a comma.
1. Exact in her portrayal of the Mexican-American, Cisneros educates the reading public about the anguish of the disenfranchised.
2. Afloat with confidence, the team sprinted onto the court.
3. Shocked at the news of Mr. Rochester's demented wife, Jane Eyre flees Thornfield Hall.
4. Confident when in possession of pencil and paper, she could write a paragraph at a moment's notice.
5. Passionate on the subject, he spoke for an hour.
OPEN WITH A VERB
Verbs supply action to a sentence. They make statements, ask questions or give commands.
Time Magazine, in every issue, makes frequent use of the verb as a sentence opener, particularly in recording conversation.
1. Said she politely, "Good morning, Brother Snake."
2. Declaimed Marc Antony over Caesar's body: "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."
3. Says one White House aide: "In effect, Carter has to keep on campaigning."
4. Replied the senator, "I haven't yet made up my mind about the legislation."
5. Answered Andy, "I didn't hear you call me."
OPEN WITH A PERFECT INFINITIVE
The present infinitive to have + the third principal part of the verb (or its past participle) = the perfect infinitive (to have written). Perfect infinitives form phrases in the same three ways as the present infinitive:
1. by combining with adverbs:
To have talked more loudly, I would have needed a microphone.
2. by combining with prepositional phrases:
To have arrived on time, I would have had to come by air.
3. by taking objects:
To have given an answer, I should have heard the question.
As noted in the preceding models, the comma usually follows the perfect infinitive used as a sentence opener.
1. To have spoken at the convention, I would have needed an invitation.
2. To have gone by train, I would have needed a reservation.
3. To have thrown the ball, I would have needed a catcher.
4. To have known about the book, I would have had to see the ad.
5. To have eaten such a big dinner, I would have had to go without food for a day.
6. To have written the letter would have meant I would have had to own a typewriter.
7. To have chosen that coat, I would have had to have spent a fortune.
OPEN WITH A DIRECT OBJECT
The word transitive means "crossing over." A transitive verb carries action from the doer of the action to the receiver. The usual pattern of the English sentence follows the order of subject-verb-direct object. By placing the direct object as the sentence opener, the writer gives much more emphasis to the receiver of the action.
1. Strands of colored weeds she had made into a blanket.
2. Joseph's beard I love better than life.
3. Real estate Landon Nef sells.
4. A better job I never had.
5. A Jaguar Spencer owns, but he rarely drives it.
6. Ella, rather than Leart, the director chose.
7. Civilized ways of doing things you must learn if you wish to assume a role in society.
8. Soup, a salad, a porterhouse steak, a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a chocolate cream pie, he ordered from the waitress of the Plumed Horse; then he asked if his date were hungry.
9. Siblings Eytan loves terrorizing.
10. Fresh blood Dracula craves!
11. The blood drive vampires attack on March 27 at Westmont in the cafeteria.
12. Grammar Max and Frank love!
13. Sentence patterns Leart struggles to understand.
14. The prepositional phrase Leart broke.
15. His parents J-Z disappoints.
16. Joseph's beard J-Z hates with a passion.
17. The election Grace bravely won.
18. The end Stephanie revealed.
OPEN WITH A PERFECT GERUND
The perfect gerund= having + the third principal part of the verb (having deposited, having kissed, having begun, having promised.)
Again, it looks identical to the perfect participle; but whereas the perfect participle functions as an adjective, the perfect gerund operates as a noun.
Perfect gerunds place the action prior to the tense indicated by the main verb. Gerunds, by contrast, can be read as depicting an action that happened prior to the main verb or that is concomitant to the main verb.
Compare these sentences: Shan regretted wearing a hat. vs. Shan regretted having worn a hat.
David likes eating Doritos. vs. David likes having eaten Doritos.
Perfect gerunds form perfect gerund phrases in the same three ways as perfect participles do:
1. by combining with adverbs: having shrieked loudly
2. by combining with prepositional phrases: having come to the abandoned quarry
3. by taking objects: having kissed his forehead
In its most frequent usage, the perfect gerund will appear as the object of a preposition (as it does in all of the examples). Gerund phrases end with a comma. The noun or pronoun immediately following the comma must serve as the person, place, or thing doing the action of the gerund; otherwise the gerund phrase will be a dangling or misplaced modifier.
1. After having written the essay, I analyzed it carefully for errors.
2. By having gone through one ordeal, I felt better about coping with future problems.
3. On having attained the promotion, I began to search for other goals.
4. From having deduced the answer, I can handle future problems more accurately.
5. Before having reached the summit, I should have rested more often.
6. Upon having reached twenty-one, he received his inheritance.
USE AN ESSENTIAL (RESTRICTIVE) ADJECTIVE
A subordinate clause = a group of words with a subject and predicate, but dependent on the rest of the sentence to make sense.
Essential (restrictive) = necessary or essential to meaning.
An adjective = a word that modifies a noun or pronoun.
An essential (restrictive) adjective clause = a group of dependent words with a subject and a predicate, modifying a noun or pronoun in the main part of the sentence and essential to the meaning of the sentence.
This type of clause does not take commas.
Only five words serve as openers for these clauses: who, whom, that, whose. Who, whom, and whose refer to people or persons; that refers to animals and things. DO NOT USE "that" TO REFER TO PEOPLE!
EXAMPLES (with dependent clauses in bold type)
1. Students who plan to enter the university in the fall quarter should forward transcripts of their records to the registrar.
2. The man who stole the horse shall regret his transgression.
3. Sir, you speak of the woman whom I love!
4. Patients who sit in the first row will be vaccinated against impatience.
5. I saw the mountain that you described.
6. The rabid dog next door that bit the mailman remains my best friend: I no longer receive junk mail!
7. Customers who are caught shoplifting will be prosecuted.
USE A NON-ESSENTIAL (NON-RESTRICTIVE) ADJECTIVE CLAUSE
A subordinate clause = a group of words with a subject and a predicate, but which are dependent upon the rest of the sentence to make sense.
Non-essential = not necessary, not essential to meaning.
An adjective = a word that modifies a noun or pronoun.
A non-essential (non-restrictive) adjective clause = a group of dependent words with a subject and a predicate, modifying the noun or pronoun in the main part of the sentence by providing additional information not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Non-essential adjective clauses require commas.
Four words serve as openers for these clauses: who, whom, whose, which. Who, whom, and whose refer to persons; which refers to animals and things. The word "that" cannot introduce a non-essential adjective clause.
EXAMPLES (with the clauses in bold type)
1. I have assigned to your department Jeffery Lebowski, who will soon proceed to the local bowling alley.
2. We took tea with the perplexed local police inspector, who never really understood Tiger's explanations.
3. He introduced me to his wife, whom he obviously adored.
4. The author, whom many critics blasted, has written a best-seller.
5. Lars, whose escapades had made headlines, decided to remain in hiding for awhile.
6. Many people sought out Aristotle, whose wisdom spread through the ancient world.
7. She would soon find out about the Nationalist Party, which ruled China at that time.
OPEN WITH A NOUN CLAUSE
A noun clause may act as the subject of a sentence, the object of a verb, the predicate noun, or the object of a preposition.
Subject: Whatever you say will meet with my approval.
Object of verb: The students know what they want discussed.
Predicate noun: The important consideration becomes what a man does, not what he says.
Object of preposition: Give refreshments to whoever comes.
These words may operate as noun-clause openers: whoever, whomever, whatever, what, which, whichever, who, that, where, how, why, wherever, whom, whosoever.
EXAMPLES (with noun clauses in bold type).
1. What Molly Hatchet had to gain, or lose, Pink Floyd could not know.
2. Who serves his country well has no need of ancestors.
3. That nothing becomes used with complete efficiency we may label as a consequence of "the second law of thermodynamics."
4. Why people feel that way puzzles me.
5. Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.
6. Whoever Kyle hits in football ends up with a concussion.
7. However Arny votes in the election will determine the financial fate of squirrels.
8. How Max and Frank make videos in the McDonald's thrills the children eating Happy Meals.
9. What Hester endures during the first seven years of Pearl's life changes the entire viewpoint of the New England Puritan townspeople (Wang 2,381,490).
OPEN WITH A PREDICATE NOUN
A predicate noun = a noun in the predicate which follows a linking verb. In contrast to an object, a predicate noun relates to the subject rather than to the verb, because a linking verb expresses a condition rather than direct action.
The common linking verbs for the predicate noun include all forms of the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) and seem and become.
1. A stranger I become, once I leave my native land.
2. A bouncing, golden-red ball the fox seemed, as he jumped high over the weeds after the frightened mouse.
3. An impostor he seemed.
4. A large man he was, strong and muscular.
5. Rufus Xavier Sasparilla his code name had been.
6. British all four of his grandparents were.
7. A man he became, once he discarded his childish ways.
8. A pleasant-looking fellow the ambassador seems.
9. The one surviving colonial power we are.
10. An American-Idol finalist, if not the winner of the entire contest, Mrs. Johnsgard seemed when she finally showed Jonny what it means to sing in class.
11. The most alert boy in class Daniel became after finding himself in the sights of Steven's spit-wad shooter.
OPEN WITH A PREDICATE ADJECTIVE
Predicate adjectives—adjectives that follow linking verbs—refer to the subject. The linking verbs may take predicate adjectives include all forms of the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been); seem, appear, become, grow, prove; and verbs describing sensations like taste, feel, smell, look, sound.
1. "Snug as a bug in a rug," they looked—Miles and his little brother under the cozy bearskin.
2. Sick of self-love you seem, Malvolio!
3. Soft her skin was, like that of a baby.
4. Cold the ice felt against his temples.
5. Delicious the pear tasted.
6. Sweet the music sounded.
7. Angry Dad appeared when he heard the news.
8. Tall the grass grows in Wyoming.
9. False the story proved when I checked it out.
10. Pleasant the patio smelled.
WRITE A COMPOUND SENTENCE USING A COMMA BEFORE THE
(FANBOYS: FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR, YET, SO)
1. Arthur likes music, but Chris has a tin ear.
2. One must humor him, or he will have a tantrum.
3. I won't go to the dance, nor will I buy a ticket.
4. I will always remember Helen Farkas, for her dignity makes her unforgettable.
5. He will earn a passing grade, yet he can do better.
A and B and C and D A, B and C S V O, FANBOYS S V O.
WRITE A COMPOUND SENTENCE WITH A SEMICOLON
A compound sentence must make two or more closely related statements about the same idea. When one of the coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) does not connect the two or more statements of a compound sentence, punctuate with the semicolon (;) between the statements.
1. The cry for freedom stops at no border; it echoes endlessly in the hearts of all men.
2. Despite its colorful blossoms, the oleander presents danger; the stem of the shrub, when broken, exudes a poisonous milky fluid.
3. The penalty for not turning work in on time may result in a lowered grade; the penalty for not turning it in at all will result in failure.
4. Arthur likes music; Chris has a tin ear.
5. I will always remember Helen Farkas; her courage and dedication make her unforgettable.
WRITE A COMPOUND SENTENCE USING A SEMICOLON BEFORE THE COORDINATING CONJUNCTION (FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR, YET, SO) BECAUSE COMMAS ALREADY APPEAR IN THE SENTENCE
1. The Boy Scouts, the American Legion, and the Women's Auxiliary will march; but any other organization that wishes may reserve a place in the parade, too.
2. Toni Morrison, an African-American novelist, writes often of pain and turmoil, racism and injustice; yet she permeates all of her works with love and compassion.
3. To avoid the mortification consequent upon his disaster, Rodney left New Orleans, the city of his forefathers; and he took up residence at Sullivan's Island, near Charleston.
4. He said nothing, however, and his conduct greatly astonished me; yet I thought it prudent not to exacerbate the growing moodiness of his temper by commenting on the lasagna bits lurking in his beard.
5. In youth, the tulip-tree, the most magnificent of American foresters, has a trunk peculiarly smooth; but in its riper age, the bark becomes gnarled and uneven.
WRITE A COMPOUND SENTENCE USING A SEMICOLON BEFORE AND A COMMA AFTER A CONJUNCTIVE ADVERB
accordingly furthermore moreover
similarly still also
hence namely still
however nevertheless next
then incidentally thereafter
certainly indeed nonetheless
therefore consequently besides
instead now thus
finally likewise otherwise
undoubtedly meanwhile further
on the other hand in fact afterwards
1. I wanted very much to go to the show on Saturday night; in fact, I had purchased a ticket.
2. I waited for him to sit down; thus, he saw my respect for him.
3. The freeways in Los Angeles frequently become scenes of death and destruction; nevertheless, those freeways rank among the safest in the world.
4. A powerful author uses style to reflect his or her tone; consequently, the reader can infer the author's attitude toward the subject.
5. Luis has a printout of his missing assignments; undoubtedly, he will make up all his missing work.
6. Ali scored 5 goals in the Westmont CCS Championship game; consequently, he has a contract next year with Manchester United.
However you slice the pizza will be fine. vs. However, you slice the pizza.
WRITE A COMPOUND SENTENCE WITH ELLIPTICAL CONSTRUCTION
Elliptical (the adjective for the noun "ellipsis") refers to the omission from a sentence of a word or words that would complete or clarify the sentence.
The semicolon connects the two independent clauses of the compound sentence. The comma indicates the omitted word or words (usually, the verb or the subject and verb), known as the ellipsis. The comma signals the reader, "At this point you should mentally insert the word or words you have already read in the first clause."
1. The Eskimo lives in an igloo; the Native American, in a tepee.
2. The Scottish Highlander sports a tam-o'-shanter; the Texas Ranger, a Stetson or ten-gallon hat.
3. Good authors emphasize character and theme; poor authors, plot.
4. The Russian ballerina wears a tutu; the Malaysian dancer, a brightly colored sarong.
5. Some note-takers try to take down all the information from the lecturer; others, only the main points.
6. New York Giants fans will forever remember one play that defined a season; New England Patriots fans, one loss.
7. San Francisco Giants fans will forever remember a pitching rotation that defined a season; Texas Rangers fans, their bullpen.
8. Kim likes to go to the hardware store; Jerry, the mall.
9. Frank is sane; Max, insane.
10. New York Giants fans will forever remember one play that defined a season; New England Patriots fans, one loss.
11. Fans of the 2010 San Francisco Giants will forever remember a pitching rotation that defined a season; fans of the Texas Rangers, the bullpen.
12. Fans of the 2012 San Francisco Giants celebrated skillful defense and pitching punctuated by well-executed offensive plays; fans of the Detroit Tigers, a triple-crown.
13. Fans of the 2014 San Francisco Giants relished the tremendous pitching performance of Madison Bumgarner; fans of the Kansas City Royals, their first World's Series appearance since 1985.
14. Jared Vass is proficient at life; the Grim Reaper, death.
WRITE A COMPOUND SENTENCE WITH AN INTRODUCTORY OR GENERAL STATEMENT FOLLOWED BY A COLON AND SPECIFIC OR EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
The colon in this pattern performs a special function: it signals to the reader something important or explanatory will follow.
The first statement will contain a word or idea that needs explaining; the second will give some specific information or examples about that word or idea.
1. Darwin's Origin of Species forcibly states a harsh truth: only the fittest survive.
2. A man has one defense at a time like this: he must play dead in hope that the bear will consider the battle finished and go away.
3. The empty coffin in the center of the crypt had a single horrifying meaning: Dracula had left his tomb to stalk the village streets in search of fresh blood.
4. Carrie Amelia Nation had a single goal: she hoped to smash every whiskey bottle and hatchet every saloon in America.
5. Pythons, anacondas, and boa constrictors rely on the same technique to kill their enemies: they coil about their victim and crush them to death.
6. Sheer isolation did what the Apache could not do alone: it held off the traders and developers for years while the Rio Grande and Pecos settlements boomed.
USE A PARENTHETICAL EXPRESSION BETWEEN THE SUBJECT
AND THE VERB
A parenthetical expression consists of a word or words placed (in this case) between the subject and the verb to explain or comment.
In this type of "interrupter," you may use a pair of commas or a pair of dashes to separate it from the main elements of the sentence. The dash serves as a more emphatic way of setting off parenthetical expressions and also functions as a clearer interruption if the sentence already has internal punctuation.
1. The startled youngsters, seeking escape in another direction, bolted off on a new track.
2. Caesar's spirit, raging for revenge, shall cry, "Havoc!"
3. Elie Wiesel, communicating through graphic diction and metaphor, brings his reader to Auschwitz, 1944.
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald, using symbols and contrasts, brings his readers into the world of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.
5. Florence (as you will know) won the race.
6. The coach, anxiety apparent in her face, watched the players closely.
7. His manner—pompous and overbearing, to say the least—proved intolerable.
8. Her joyous burst of laughter—delightful to all who knew her—made her unforgettable.
OPEN WITH AN INTRODUCTORY SERIES OF APPOSITIVES, THEN A DASH AND A SUMMARIZING SUBJECT
This pattern begins with a cluster of appositives. An appositive we may define as another naming for some noun. After the appositive comes a dash, followed by a summarizing word. These summarizing words may be: such, all those, these, many, each, which, what, something, someone. Sometimes this summarizing word may serve as the subject of the sentence; sometimes it may merely modify the subject.
A highly stylized sentence, this pattern becomes effective for special places in your writing, places where you want to squeeze a lot of information into the same slot. The commas come between the appositives in the series; the dash follows the series; a summary word must occur at the beginning of the main clause.
1. The trees and the earth and the green water on the lakes, the near-hills and the far-off hills—all told their stories.
2. The crack of the lion tamer's whip, the dissonant music of the calliope, the neighs of Arabian stallions—these sounds mean "circus" to all children.
3. To struggle, to exist, and so to create his own soul—this process becomes man's great task.
4. Love, hate, resentment, fear, anger, ambition—such emotions direct our day-dreams!
5. Frank McCourt, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison—writers in the twentieth century have achieved fame through their discussions of the disenfranchised.
6. The Mona Lisa, La Vita Nuova, the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel—what an imagination those Italian artists had!
7. An old picture, a haunting fragrance, a sudden view of a half-forgotten scene—something unexpectedly triggers our nostalgia for the past.
8. Gas chambers, concentration camps, crematories—these ghastly institutions tortured European Jews during the Holocaust.
9. Courtesy, correctness, conciseness—these constitute the three essentials in a business letter.
10. Doritos, Red Bull, Guitar Hero—these were my whole life.
USE AN EMPHATIC APPOSITIVE AT THE END OF A SENTENCE, FOLLOWING A COLON
Waiting to define an idea until the end builds a sentence to a climax and provides a pattern for a forceful, emphatic appositive at the end of the sentence, where it practically shouts for the reader's attention. Use the colon in this pattern. It has more formality, and it usually comes before a rather long appositive.
1. Most contemporary philosophies echo ideas from one man: Plato, a student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle.
2. A soldier goes AWOL for a specific purpose: to hide from the MPs.
3. Adjusting to a new job requires one quality: the ability to adapt.
4. Immigrants lost an unrecoverable currency: their native language.
5. After reading Wiesel's Night none of us can forget the horrible legacy of Hitler's campaign: the slaughter of six million Jews.
6. Workers are finishing the Essex Tower: a huge sky-scraper looming over Battery Park.
7. The Rockettes rehearsed their new number: an absurd display of legs in feathers.
8. Penelope sat dumbfounded on the floor as her mother hysterically screamed at her to organize the contents of her room: the scattered pellets of a slashed bean bag, the crumpled faces of passé pin-up boys ripped from teen-beat fantasies, an enormous clump of soiled clothes, the naked figures of her Malibu Barbie Beach Bungalow Playset.
USE AN EMPHATIC APPOSITIVE AT THE END OF A SENTENCE, FOLLOWING A DASH
For a more informal construction, you may use a dash instead of the colon before a short, emphatic appositive at the end of a sentence. Dashes almost always precede a short, climactic appositive, whereas a colon will generally precede longer appositives.
1. Adjusting to a new job requires one main quality—adaptability.
2. Most contemporary philosophies echo ideas from one man—Plato.
3. The relatively few salmon that do make it to the spawning grounds have another old tradition to deal with—male supremacy.
4. The grasping of sea weeds reveals the most resourceful part of the sea horse—its prehensile tail.
5. In 1984 an omnipresent figure tyrannizes man's daily life—Big Brother. (Citizens of Oceania are tyrannized by an ominous figure—Big Brother.)
6. Elie and his father use every bit of skill and cunning to avoid the most terrifying of all terrors—selection.
7. Jay-Z, Shawn Carter, celebrated his impending nuptials with his bride, Beyonce, by giving her a new pseudonym—fiancée!
USE AN INTERNAL SERIES OF APPOSITIVES OR MODIFIERS, ENCLOSED BY A PAIR OF DASHES
Appositives will rename and modifiers will describe something named elsewhere in the sentence. Because this kind of series serves as a dramatic interruption within the sentence and may even have commas, you must use the dash before it and after it.
1. All the scholarly disciplines and especially all the sciences—physical, biological, social—share the burden of searching for truth.
2. "Which famous detectives—Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolfe or Dick Tracy—will you take as your model?" the sergeant asked.
3. All of Poe's writing strengths—structure, vocabulary, imagery—catapulted him to the top of literary fame.
4. The dream of the 1950s American coed—becoming a child bride, producing soggy babies, acquiring a suburban mortgage and a two-car garage—frequently turned into a nightmare.
5. Many aspects of nature—the trees and the earth and the green water on the lakes—told their stories.
6. Mortimer Turpitude—the doleful lawyer of the firm, Dewy, Cheetum, and Howe—threw darts at a portrait of his nemesis, Perry Mason.
USE A PERIODIC SENTENCE
In a periodic sentence, descriptive elements (or details) introduce the sentence, pushing the complete thought to the end of the sentence. This pattern proves quite effective for emphasis or suspense because the most emphatic point of a sentence is the end. Periodic sentences are usually long, complex sentences, the independent clause appearing at the end, near the period. Here is one possible pattern for a periodic sentence: dependent clause, dependent clause, independent clause.
1. Because he wrote both tragedies and comedies, because he glorified England, and because he penned deathless lines, Shakespeare became immortal.
2. With the Tibetan mastiff "as big as a donkey," with the wolfhound as a member of its Mongolian clan, and with the Pekingese as the most popular of pet classes on Earth, China has produced three special dogs.
3. By the creation of the American Gothic tale, by the origination of the detective story, and by the writing of many masterpieces, Edgar Allan Poe occupies an important niche in American literature.
4. In his humorous light-stepping through human foibles, in his interpretation of God, and in his accentuation of the positive, Chaucer created tales that have lasted since the Middle Ages.
5. Through their use of irony, their blending of powerful images, their re-imagining of universal ideas and themes using symbolism, these three—Pearl Buck, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison—rank among the great modern writers.
6. Shuffling up an insipidly named Academae Avenue from the pea-green walls of the town's Greyhound station, wrapped tightly in his parka (the blanket of Linus, the warmth of the woods, his portable womb), the rucksack packed thickly with the only possessions and necessities of his life: a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph, one hundred and sixty-nine silver dollars, a current 1958 calendar, a plastic sack of exotic seeds, a packet of grapevine leaves in a special humidor, a jar of feta, sections of wire coathanger to be used as shish kebab skewers, a boy scout shirt, two cinnamon sticks, a bottle-cap from Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic, a change of Fruit-of-the-Loom underwear from a foraging at Bloomingdales, an extra pair of corduroy pants, a 1920's baseball cap, a Hohner F harmonica, six venison loin chops, and an arbitrary number of recently severed and salted rabbit's feet, Gnossos Pappadopoulis, keeper of the flame, arrived. (18)
—Richard Fariña, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me
7. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
—Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
USE A CUMULATIVE SENTENCE
A cumulative sentence is, in a sense, the opposite of a periodic sentence: instead of appearing at the end of a series of dependent clauses, the independent clause opens the sentence, followed by the accumulation of dependent clauses and phrases that modify the independent clause. Like the periodic sentence, cumulative sentences are usually complex sentences.
1. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
—Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
2. All the parts and parcels of the winter that had been were sliding down the gullies of the hill, plunging into gorges, swelling streams brown and gurgling, creeping through fissures and corridors of shale in the glacial countryside, skimming over tops of fallow fields, across slopes like ducks' backs, seeking a level: the broad, steel-blue plain of bottomless Maeander, where if you listened carefully you heard the French and Indian cannons booming as some monumental piece of earth or stone was shouldered loose from a cliff face by the swelling lunge of ice beneath and dumped into the flawless, pregnant surface of the lake. (141)
—Richard Fariña, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me
Absolute phrases modify or describe the actions or ideas presented in a clause or sentence. An absolute phrase consists of a noun and a participle. When the participle is the verb "to be," it is usually implied or not stated.
1. Frank dozes comfortably, feet [being] up on the desk.
2. Arny dozes comfortably, squirrels nestling in his hair.
3. Cigarette [being] lit, he pumped the gas coolly.
4. The dog barked, his tail wagging joyfully.
5. The mother held her baby boy, his mouth drooling saliva.
6. Loren asked a question about the obvious, his attention taken by the Rubik's cube.
7. Hand [being] raised, Michelle asked for an example.
8. The President, his face [being] oily like a burger patty out of the fryer, lied to Congress.
9. Hips grinding through the dry, neon air of Las Vegas, Elvis saunters down the sidewalk.
10. Carrying a pitcher of root beer to the gentlemen watching Monday Night Football, the bumbling barmaid suddenly tripped—her hand toppling the pitcher, soda drenching the astonished gentlemen, her body buckling like a sacked quarterback, and her head plummeting into the lap of her future husband.
11. Drums the size of wine casks vibrating the floor, a monolith of Marshall amplifiers exciting mosh pits of dust motes, a circa World War II fog machine capable of obscuring an air field chugging, sputtering, making the floor toxic to children under 3 feet high—the wedding band inspired a lofting of Bic lighters from the remaining bachelors of the wedding party and brought tears to the heavily rouged cheeks of the bride.
Original: Fanny Pucker, her voice cracking with rage, denounced the hecklers.
Imitation: The confused biology student, his mind roiling in DNA code, accidentally cloned his teacher.
Note: The absolute phrase is an important grammatical structure. Consider that the debate over gun control hinges on the interpretation of an absolute phrase:
A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of the free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
—Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution
Parallelism is the repetition of a grammatical structure to emphasize a relationship between ideas.
Parallelism gives balance, focus, and clarity to a sentence.
Parallelism establishes a pattern of repetition that writers can manipulate to create a vast array of rhetorical effects.
Writers can reinforce and emphasize their use of parallelism by repeating one or more words in each item in a series:
He told himself he liked her, and
he liked her around him,
liked to look at her,
liked her laugh,
liked her near him,
liked to think of doing thing for her,
defending her against demons and
—James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan
Parallelism also gives the reader a pattern to follow so that writers don't need to repeat the words used in each grammatical structure. In fact, parallelism is such a captivating tool that writers can even leave words out because the reader expects the pattern to be repeated and therefore easily supplies the missing words. This technique of omitting a word or words readily implied by the context is called ellipsis.
These boys and girls were will-less, their speech flat, their gestures vague, their personalities devoid of anger, hope, laughter, enthusiasm, passion, or despair. —Richard Wright, Black Boy
These boys and
girls were will-less,
their speech [was] flat,
their gestures [were] vague,
their personalities [were] devoid of anger,
Since parallelism establishes a pattern, writers can manipulate the patterns they establish to play with a reader's expectations, surprising the reader with unexpected twists of information. This technique of using a word in a series or pair that does not fit grammatically or idiomatically with one member of the series or pair is called zeugma.
I am an expert in stucco,
a veteran in love, and
an outlaw in Peru.
—student admissions essay.
Larry Joe Bird emerged from the Boston Celtics' locker room . . . wearing
and LSU Tigers cap... and
a resigned expression.
—Sports Illustrated, 28 November 1988
And parallelism is the perfect structure for comparison-and-contrast sentences and essays. Repeating a grammatical form focuses the comparison for the reader.
Old elephants limp off to the hills to die;
old Americans go out to the highway and drive themselves to death with huge cars.
—Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Here are some more rhetorical forms that are based on the use of parallelism.
Repetition ofa word or group of words at the beginning of items in a series.*
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.
—Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons, June 4, 1940.
Repetition of the last word of one structural unit at the beginning of the following structural unit.
The crime was common, common be the pain. —Alexander Pope, "Eloisa to Abelard"
Repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse order.
Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
—John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
Juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, often in parallel structure.
Those who have been left out, we will try to bring in. Those left behind, we will help to catch up. —Richard Nixon, Inaugural Address
Repetition of the same word or group of words at the end of items in a series.
As long as the white man sent you to Korea, you bled. He sent you to Germany, you bled. He sent you to the South Pacific to fight the Japanese, you bled.
—Speech by Malcolm X
Repetition at the end of a clause or sentence of the word or phrase with which it began.
I might, unhappy word, O me, I might —Sidney Astrophil and Stella, 33
Repetition of one word or phrase at the beginning, and of another at the end, of successive clauses, sentences, or passages.
Most true that I deluded am with love,
Most true that I do find the sleights of love.
Most true that nothing can procure her love,
Most true that I must perish in my love. —Bartholomew Griffin, Fidessa, 62
Repetition of phrases or clauses balanced not only in structure but in the length of their structure.
Our dehumanization of the Negro then is indivisible from our dehumanization of ourselves; the loss of our own identity is the price we pay for our annulment of his.
Deliberate use of many conjunctions.
In early summer there are plenty of things for a child to eat and suck and chew.
Read the following sentences and study the layering diagrams below.
The horses were coming, looking as if their hides had been drenched and rubbed with soap, their ribs heaving, their nostrils flaring and closing.
1.) The horses were coming,
2.) looking as if their hides had been drenched and rubbed with soap,
2.) their ribs heaving,
2.) their nostrils flaring and closing.
The jockeys sat bowed and relaxed, their faces calm, moving a little at the waist with the movement of their horses.
1.) The jockeys sat bowed and relaxed,
2.) their faces calm,
2.) moving a little at the waist with the movement of their horses.
Sitting in the halted buckboard, Ratliff watched the old fat white horse come down the land, surrounded and preceded by the rich sonorous organ tones of its entrails.
2.) Sitting in the halted buckboard,
1.) Ratliff watched the old fat white horse come down the land,
2.) surrounded and preceded by the rich sonorous organ tones of its entrails.
John Chapman was sitting alone in the bank, peeling an apple carefully, the unbroken spiral hanging like a shaving as he turned the fruit.
1.) John Chapman was sitting alone in the bank,
2.) peeling an apple carefully,
3.) the unbroken spiral hanging like a shaving as he turned the fruit.
Lying there like a corpse in the dead leaves, his hair matted, his face grotesquely smudged and bruised, his clothes in rags and muddy, Will Farnaby awoke with a start.
2.) Lying there like a corpse in the dead leaves,
3.) his hair matted,
3.) his face grotesquely smudged and bruised,
3.) his clothes in rags and muddy,
1.) Will Farnaby awoke with a start.
My beard was about three days old, bordering on wino trim, and my eyes were totally hidden by Sandy Bull's Saigon-mirror shades.
-- Hunter S. Thompson
1.) My beard was about three days old,
2.) bordering on standard wino trim,
1.) and my eyes were totally hidden by Sandy Bull's Saigon-mirror shades.
For teenage boys, physical rough-and-tumble play is replaced by verbal banter, exchanges of good-natured insults—a form of verbal attack.
-- Deborah Tannen
2.) For teenage boys,
1.) physical rough-and-tumble play is replaced by verbal banter,
2.) exchanges of good-natured insults—
3.) a form of verbal attack.
Had there been an axe handy, or a poker, any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father's breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it.
2.) Had there been an axe handy,
2.) or a poker,
3.) any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father's breast and killed him,
4.) there and then,
1.) James would have seized it.
Now, make a layering diagram for the following sentences.
1. 1) On the table an energy drink sat, 2) a warm Red Bull, 3) an undrinkable tooth-rotting concoction in a red, grey and blue can.
2. Andy Kaddaber dipped his hands in the bichloride solution and shook them, a quick shake, fingers down, like the fingers of a pianist above the keys.
3. There was a horrifying rush of cheddar cheese, followed immediately by the dull tang of soybean flour—the main ingredient in Gaines-burgers.
4. Outside, the lunatics were playing with their motorcycles, taping the headlights, topping off oil in the forks, last minute bolt-tightening (carburetor screws, manifold nuts, chrome skull-head tire caps), and the first ten bikes blasted off on the stroke of nine.
5. Then he puts down the saw and goes and crouches above the lantern, shielding it with his body, his back shaped lean and scrawny by his wet shirt as through he had been abruptly turned wrong-side out, shirt and all.
6. The weasel, scenting blood, backed up against the far wall of the box, yellow body tense as a spring, teeth showing in a tiny soundless snarl.
7. A flag hung in folds parallel with the pole, unfurling first in one direction then the other, the shadows rippling in vertical lines across the horizontal stripes.
8. She followed him for hours along streets whose names she never knew, across arterials that even with the afternoon's lull nearly murdered her, into slums and out, up long hillsides jammed solid with two- or three-bedroom houses, all their windows giving blankly back only the sun.
9. In this little, lonesome dwelling, with some slender means that she possessed, and by the license of the magistrates, who still kept an inquisitorial watch over her, Hester established herself, with her infant child.
10. Children, too young to comprehend wherefore this woman should be shut out from the sphere of human charities, would creep nigh enough to behold her plying her needle at the cottage-window, or standing in the door-way, or laboring in her little garden, or coming forth along the pathway that led townward; and, discerning the scarlet letter on her breast, would scamper off, with a strange, contagious fear.
11. In a memoir, Jonny describes the hazing he endured as a freshman at Westmont High School, ranging from being forced to keep stolen Scantron keys that barely literate seniors had pilfered from teacher desks to squeezing his long arm up the chute of unplugged Pepsi machines to hit the proverbial switch that would release a cascade of sticky-sweet sugar water, carbonated and effervescent, much like the naïve and eager to please Jonny, whose glee at being mistaken for a junior clouded his nascent morality long enough to allow such lapses in his otherwise melodiously innocuous behavior, yet, just as he might slide into a career of moral turpitude, plopping him on the bare lawns of Boyton, forced to eat furtively his clumpy peanut-butter sandwich, no jelly thank you, the brown protein spread quite unevenly because no knives, even plastic ones, allowed on the highly-guarded grounds, Jonny found in Mr. Evans' English I class what would soon transform the rough, untuned strands of his ragged melody, a rueful dirge never to be whistled with the percussive accompaniment of a metal cup raked listlessly across bars, mottled and cold: Jonny, ears unwaxed, heard the siren song of a girl, and, unlike his heroic counterpart, strolled over a sea of scuffed tiles to find bliss.
In 1512, the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) published De Copia (meaning "on command of language" or "richness of expression"). Erasmus's book was one of the most influential rhetoric texts of the European Renaissance.
One exercise in De Copia directs students to compose several hundred variations of one sentence. This exercise has three purposes:
(1) to increase the number of sentence structures a student can use when writing (stuffing the bag of tricks);
(2) to develop a command of sentence structure (knowing how to generate, manipulate and vary sentence patterns);
(3) to develop a sense of stylistic judgment (learning what sounds good vs. what sounds bad and why)
What makes this exercise practical is that it requires no grammatical terminology. Indeed, you already have done this exercise in your writing career—whenever you rewrote a sentence to make it sound better. But the idea here is not to limit yourself to a handful of choices by using only what you're familiar with, for soon you will have written yourself into a box, a confining space in which you can see no other option. Being cut off from possibilities forces you to keep a sentence that doesn't have the effect you're looking for and that probably should be boxed up and sent back. Be bold and imaginative and experimental in recording information, in revising your sentences.
As Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) (another Renaissance figure and the namesake of a triangle and a computer language) wrote a century after Erasmus's era, "Words differently arranged have different meanings, and meanings differently arranged have different effects." Erasmus's exercise teaches both the different arrangements and an appreciation of the different effects.
Taken from Thomas B. Costain's historical novel The Conquering Family, the following sentence describes the conditions under which a man must make a hazardous horseback ride to London, where he hopes to claim the throne of England:
A sleet was falling which turned the roads into sheets of ice.
The sentence communicates the discomfort and danger the rider had to suffer as he was threatened both with being frozen and with being crushed beneath a falling horse.
Retaining the original vocabulary except where grammar or idiom requires a substitution (because a sleet was falling/because of a falling sleet), we can compose different versions of Costain's sentence. Here are a few of the over four hundred possibilities:
1 A sleet was falling, which turned the roads into sheets of ice.
2 A sleet which turned the roads into sheets of ice was falling.
3 A sleet, which turned the roads into sheets of ice, was falling.
4 A sleet was falling; it turned the road into sheets of ice.
5 A sleet was falling, and it turned the roads into sheets of ice.
6 A sleet was falling and turning the roads into sheets of ice.
7 A falling sleet was turning the roads into sheets of ice.
8 Turning the roads into sheets of ice, a sleet was falling.
9 The roads turned into sheets of ice in the falling sleet.
10 The roads turned into sheets of ice by the sleet that was falling.
11 Because of the following sleet, the roads turned into sheets of ice.
12 Because a sleet was falling, the roads turned into sheets of ice.
13 There was a sleet falling that turned the roads into sheets of ice.
14 A sleetfall turned the roads into sheets of ice.
15 It was a falling sleet that turned the roads into sheets of ice.
And we can double the number of sentences simply by turning "sheets of ice" into "icy sheets."
Erasmus Exercise Directions
Write as many variations as you can of some of the following sentences. Compare and discuss the differences in pace, rhythm, and emphasis of your variations. How does each variation guide the reader through the actions or ideas of the sentence? What connections does your arrangement of the information lead the reader to make? What action or information does each of your sentences present as the most important? as least important?
1. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
-- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
2. He did not waste time maturing, he did not make any of the obvious mistakes.
-- Saul Bellow, Dangling Man
3. Early one morning, under the arc of a lamp, carefully, silently, in smock and rubber gloves, old Doctor Manza grafted a cat's head onto a chicken's trunk.
-- Dylan Thomas, "The Lemon"
4. At the time not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them—four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.
-- Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
5. The essential difference between man and animal is exhibited most clearly by human language, by a man's ability to form new statements which express new thoughts.
-- Noam Chomsky, Cartesian Linguistics
6. If the input voltage is a sine wave, then we must divide the peak voltage by 1.414 (or multiply is by 0.707) to get the rms value.
-- Carl David Todd, "The Poor Man's Digital Voltometer"
7. A lonely boy, Coleridge retreated into books—he read The Arabian Nights at six—and fed his mind with adventures so wild and fancies so morbid that he often feared the coming of the night.
-- Louis Untermeyer, Lives of the Poets
8. Despite its great variety of natural wonders, California is best known to many outsiders for just one thing—earthquakes.
-- Robert Iacopi, Earthquake Country
9. From the age of Britain's greatest internal disorder stand out the life and work of John Milton.
-- G. Wilson Knight, Chariot of Wrath
10. Some morticians choose to wait for their clients to be dragged through the door, but, to immortalize the client as a work of art, the flesh must be fresh, so I check the hospitals, frequently.
-- Andy Kadabber, How to be a Gleeful Mortician
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