Anyone remember the basics of sentence structure? Would you be able to label each part of a sentence with the appropriate part of speech?
Chances are, with the exception of a few editors out there, you'd be somewhere in my realm. I have a feeling for what works and what is best left alone, and I can certainly tell you the difference between a verb and a noun, an adverb and an adjective, but ask me how to fix a sentence that ends in the word "to" or identify appositives and relative pronouns and I might look at you cross-eyed.
As I stretch my brain back to third grade and the basics of sentence structure, I remember every sentence (in English) must have a subject and a verb. That's it. Two simple words. I also remember it was deemed "preferable" to add an object.
Step up (subject/verb/object):
He played ball.
I would be willing to bet that most of you reading this do not employ such simple sentence structure often. I certainly don't. I am a sucker for sentences that sing and dance in waves. I want my writing to flow, and short sentences create a staccato rhythm that I don't generally seek. Then there is my oft-used medium of journalism, where articles should exhibit an average sentence length of 16-17 words (so says the Associated Press Guide to News Writing).
With so much of our reading and writing focused on longer sentences, why should we pay attention to the short guys?
- Well, for one, breaks in the rhythm can be satisfying, and very telling. They can allow the reader to catch a breath. They can paint a different mood, or identify an important shift.
- If we want to write for children (as I do) we have to know to reel in the words and use shorter sentences to harness power. Same goes for teaching children, and really speaking with them, truth be told. Ever see a kid's eyes glaze over with a run-on diatribe?
- It can really help identify holes in plot. Want to know if a story is working? Strip down every sentence to the basic action and see if the story is headed in the right direction. From there, you will see if there are holes that you need to fill in, or if there is fat that needs trimming.
Today's writercize will give you the opportunity to go back to basics and practice writing very short sentences. (This may feel like the exact opposite of freewriting.)
writercize: Write a short story using sentences of no more than six words each.
Begin the story with a five-word sentence using the following structure: subject (noun) / verb / preposition / article / object (noun). Feel free to use the word bank below for your starter.
Leave your story as a comment. You should be able to complete a (very short) story in 50 words or less. Think board book!
(And PS - come back tomorrow for a C prompt that promises to be less than 100 words in the entire post!)
Click "read more" for (a very short) writercizer sample response about a boy and a rainbow.writercizer sample response:
Tim ran around the rainbow. He liked to see the colors. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. He tried to touch the rainbow. It slipped through his hands. Tim smiled. Good things are hard to catch.