Monday, October 01, 2012

Writing Tips #2: Sentence Variation

I am here to write something. I like to write. I hope it is good. I hope you likey. I don’t see why you no likey. I don’t know what I am doing. I…

Change is nice. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. Maybe you won’t like it, but it was probably still interesting and you got to see something new. That does not change when it comes to writing: people are adventurous things.

Specifically, what I am speaking of is sentence structure. You can definitely get by with using the exact same sentence and swapping out only a verb and noun. However, that makes for neither good nor engaging writing. Come to think of it, my French writing and speaking ability is that of a kindergartener and everything looks and sounds like the first paragraph above.

By sentence structure, I mean how a sentence is laid out. This includes what it begins with, if it’s a statement or a question, the word and letter it starts with, where the commas go, everything. There is probably an official definition for “sentence structure”, but that is what I mean.

The most basic thing I do to check my writing is to see what word I start a sentence and paragraph with. Looking at this piece of writing itself, the paragraphs above start with the words “change”, “specifically”, “by”, and “the”. How this works is that sentences generally (and I emphasize, “generally”) only work one way with a specific word or word-type (e.g. noun). “The dog” can do many, many things, but can only do them that way.

When you change how a sentence starts and use it to convey the same message, your options open up. See some of the variations below:
  • “The dog ate the newspaper.”
  • “With a newspaper in his mouth, the dog fed well.”
  • “I was disappointed that the dog ate the paper.”
  • “The paper was eaten by the dog.”
  • “Without training the dog properly, the only thing left was a paper eating machine.”
You’re going to need some creativity. It isn’t just about changing the order of the words. Once you start with a different word, you’ll find that you need to work in an extra idea or a feeling to complete the sentence. But it is they details that make writing interesting in the first place anyways.