I took the title for this post from a book authored by Bruce Ross-Larson from “The Effective Writing Series.” As a writing tutor and also a writer myself, I am always looking for resources not only to help the people that come to see me for help but also to help myself to write better sentences (a perennial struggle for many). Hence, it was serendipitious for me to come by this book sitting at the Writing Studio library. Rather than review this book, I distill some of the tips provided in chapter one of this book by Ross-Larson that I hope you will find useful for your own writing process:
1. Look for patterns in good writing that you can emulate. As you write for the various purposes throughout your life, you may want to have with you a store of choiced sentences/patterns that can take you beyond the banal.
2. Think about length. While it is fine to have the occasional long sentences (some writers are good enough to get away with paragraph long sentences), you may want to have a more nuanced approach to sentence length; weaving between long, medium and short sentences. Read the sentences aloud. Do you find yourself stumblinh skipping over words or changing the sentences as you read? You know what to do next then.
3. Think about the building block of the sentence – word, phrase clause. Even punctuation (or the lack of one) matters. Try separating the movables from the immovables. The subject, verb and object or complement usually appear in a fixed order though they could also be inverted to great effect. It’s the ornamental words that you can move around: prepositional phrases, conditions, that/which.
4. Think about balance and rhythm. How would you create soothing rhythm or compelling cadences? Balance coming from repeated parts in the form of parallel sentence structures, recasts, reversals or cascades are the most elusive.
In the rest of the book, Ross-Larson discusses all the different forms of sentences written in many different possible situations and permutations. It’s a little book and a quick read. Get hold of a copy and it may change the way you envision your sentences.