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Monday, February 14, 2011

Building Blocks

This week I am covering Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools. Today, I want to look at some sentence structure basics that impact pace, meaning & connotation.

Subject/Verb Dichotomy - First the noun, then the action. What follows is the subordinate clause to create a "right-branching sentence."

Ex: Jodi ran, her heart pounded in her veins as she threw branches from her path.

The action is in the first two words; what follows comprises what the writer wants the reader to feel about the 'run'.

Ex: Jodi ran in measured steps to the beat of a song pulsing in her ears and to her feet as they glanced the pavement.

Alignment & Emphasis - Clark suggests the placement of strong elements at the beginning & the end with the weaker bits sprinkled in the middle.

Ex: Jodi ran, her heart palpitated as she mounted the steps & entered her son's school.

Yep, her little heart is a-racin', but placing the emphasis on the son & his school at the end brings new meaning, urgency & level of feeling. The action sets the tone; the ending stretches the tension. The middle gives the connective information that helps the reader identify with Jodi's emotional state.

Activation - Active verbs = action performed by subject. 
Passive verbs = the action happening to the subject. 
Connective verb = a form of to be.

Ex: Jodi ran.

Ex: The grocery cart ran into Jodi.

Ex: That grocery cart will hit Jodi if she doesn't get off her phone in time.

Sheesh, poor Jodi ran a marathon of emotional & other crises. I do freely admit that these sentences leave chunks to be desired, but I hope, ** (fingers crossed), that I got the meaning across the ether. 

Happy Writing,



  1. One of my biggest grammar issues is the strength in my sentences. Thank you for this cool reminder.

  2. Good examples of showing emotional reaction tied to the action. Great reminder that it can be done.

  3. PS: I'm mentioning you in my blog this week.

  4. Hey Clarissa,
    You bet.
    Thanks & thanks!!

    You are both awesome!!!


  5. This sounds really cool! I'll have to check it out! Thanks for sharing :)
    New follower!Register Domain