Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 13, 2010

Varying Sentences for Interest

Readers can quickly lose interest in a story, if an author writes too many simple, short, or choppy sentences.  Adding variety and complexity to sentences can keep your manuscript from sounding repetive and boring. 

Ryan Weber, Allen Brizee from the Perdue Online Writing Lab, contributed the information below:

Examples of how to vary sentence openings.

If too many sentences start with the same word, especially “The,” “It,” “This,” or “I,” prose can grow tedious for readers, so changing opening words and phrases can be refreshing. Below are alternative openings for a fairly standard sentence. Notice that different beginnings can alter not only the structure but also the emphasis of the sentence. They may also require rephrasing in sentences before or after this one, meaning that one change could lead to an abundance of sentence variety.

Example: The biggest coincidence that day happened when David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.

Possible Revisions:

  • Coincidentally, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • In an amazing coincidence, David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • Sitting next to David at the Super Bowl was a tremendous coincidence.
  • But the biggest coincidence that day happened when David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • When I sat down at the Super Bowl, I realized that, by sheer coincidence, I was directly next to David.
  • By sheer coincidence, I ended up sitting directly next to David at the Super Bowl.
  • With over 50,000 fans at the Super Bowl, it took an incredible coincidence for me to end up sitting right next to David.
  • What are the odds that I would have ended up sitting right next to David at the Super Bowl?
  • David and I, without any prior planning, ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • Without any prior planning, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • At the crowded Super Bowl, packed with 50,000 screaming fans, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other by sheer coincidence.
  • Though I hadn’t made any advance arrangements with David, we ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • Many amazing coincidences occurred that day, but nothing topped sitting right next to David at the Super Bowl.
  • Unbelievable, I know, but David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • Guided by some bizarre coincidence, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.

Vary the rhythm by alternating short and long sentences.

Several sentences of the same length can make for bland writing. To enliven paragraphs, write sentences of different lengths. This will also allow for effective emphasis.

Example: The Winslow family visited Canada and Alaska last summer to find some native American art. In Anchorage stores they found some excellent examples of soapstone carvings. But they couldn’t find a dealer selling any of the woven wall hangings they wanted. They were very disappointed when they left Anchorage empty-handed.

Revision: The Winslow family visited Canada and Alaska last summer to find some native American art, such as soapstone carvings and wall hangings. Anchorage stores had many soapstone items available. Still, they were disappointed to learn that wall hangings, which they had especially wanted, were difficult to find. Sadly, they left empty-handed.

Example: Many really good blues guitarists have all had the last name King. They have been named Freddie King and Albert King and B.B. King. The name King must make a bluesman a really good bluesman. The bluesmen named King have all been very talented and good guitar players. The claim that a name can make a guitarist good may not be that far fetched.

Revision: What makes a good bluesman? Maybe, just maybe, it’s all in a stately name. B.B. King. Freddie King. Albert King. It’s no coincidence that they’re the royalty of their genre. When their fingers dance like court jesters, their guitars gleam like scepters, and their voices bellow like regal trumpets, they seem almost like nobility. Hearing their music is like walking into the throne room. They really are kings.

Hope this helps with your revisions.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: