I love to read. Reading began my passion for writing. I figured, hey, if it's something I love, it'll be easy.
Turns out, that's not entirely true.
It hasn't been so easy, but I have learned and taught myself much along the way. One thing I do know: there is always more to learn.
So I've decided to plan twelve writing tasks for us this year. I will feature a different writing exercise the first Monday of each month. During that month, I'll return each Monday sharing more about our topic.
This month, we are tackling sentence structure. I'll do my best to make it painless and interesting.
For the purposes of simplification here, there are four basic types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, compound-complex. Writers, of course, have some poetic license; for the most part, however, we want to establish ourselves as an authority. We want our readers to lose themselves in our story and not trip over sloppy or clumsy writing. In short: keep your long sentences properly punctuated; use fragments sparingly and with purpose.
SIMPLE SENTENCE - an independent clause (I) consisting of a noun and verb; you can have one or more subjects and/or one or more verbs
He ran. Lila and Tony sat. They loved.
The old man fell. The copper church bell clanged. My sleepy dog and cat farted.
The child ate and drank quickly. The firetruck did not stop. Mrs. Thomas yelled loudly.
noun phrase/verb phrase:
The old man tripped and fell slowly. The copper church bell clanged repeatedly.
As you can see, the more detail, the more story revealed.
COMPOUND SENTENCE - two simple sentences combined using a comma and a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) or a semi-colon (;) (I,c I or I;I)
He ran, but she sat. The old man fell, yet the firetruck did not stop. Mrs. Thomas yelled loudly, for the copper church bell clanged repeatedly. The child ate quickly; the sleepy dog farted.
Note that a comma follows the first independent clause, but it precedes the coordinating conjunction. Use compound sentences when you want to emphasize the relationship between the two clauses.
COMPLEX SENTENCE - an independent clause (I) combined with a dependent clause (D - a simple sentence that starts with a subordinating conjunction; use a comma when your sentence begins with the dependent clause (ID and D,I)
ID - The old man fell when the firetruck raced around the corner.
D,I - Because the copper church bell clanged, Mrs. Thomas raised her voice ever more loudly.
Find the complex sentences in this book blurb.
COMPOUND COMPLEX SENTENCE - the varietal combination of a compound sentence with a complex one
I,c ID - The old man fell, and the church bell clanged after the firetruck raced down the street.
I; ID - The church bell clanged; the old man tripped when the firetruck raced around the corner.
ID; I - The church bell clanged as the firetruck raced down the street; the old man tripped.
ID, c I - The church bell clanged as the firetruck raced down the street, and the old man tripped.
D, I; I - When the firetruck raced down the street, the old man tripped; the church bell clanged repeatedly.
D, I, c I - When the firetruck raced down the street, the old man tripped, but the church bell did not ring.
If your head is about to explode, I understand. However, if you take some time to review and learn these structures, you will have much more fun writing, and your readers will travel effortlessly through your story.
Try some of these out. Take whatever you are working on, and practice a variety of sentence structures. You will discover that a properly placed comma or well-intentioned conjunction can make a world of difference in the mood, tone, and foreshadowing of your story.
Share your journey here! Come back next week for some fun practice with sentence structure! Whoowee!
Next month: making use of descriptive detail in your setting