Sentence Structure Peeve of the Day

(Because I’m the sort of person who gets peevish over sentence structure.)

It’s a common fault in the work of beginning writers, or in the early drafts of texts by experienced writers (but what makes the writers experienced is that they know how to spot their faults and remove them in the second draft):  They will write sentences where the important idea, or one of the important ideas, is relegated to a subordinate clause — or, worse, a modifying phrase — like this:

Fred’s brief attempt at independence subsided, his desire to act on his own still surging through him, but in the end he had no choice except to obey.

That’s a bad sentence for a lot of reasons (and deliberately writing a bad sentence is work, let me tell you), but structurally it’s a bad sentence because there’s an important idea buried in it that should be given space to stand on its own.  Important ideas deserve their own independent clauses.  Like this:

Fred’s brief attempt at independence subsided.  His desire to act on his own still surged through him, but in the end he had no choice except to obey.

It’s still a bad sentence (or set of sentences.)  But at least it’s not a structurally bad sentence.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s