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Or, actually, not.

When you’re building up a sequence of ideas (which generally results in a paragraph, and a whole bunch of paragraphs together generally results in a completed story, or an essay, or a letter thanking your Great-Aunt Euphemia for the half-dozen silver fish forks in a pattern that isn’t yours), you don’t want to just string the ideas together as they occur to you.  You’re constructing something that has to stand up when you’re done with it, not just lie there on the carpet like a string of Christmas lights after the tree has come down.

This means that you need to think about the relationship of your ideas to each other, and put them together in ways that indicate those relationships – while at the same time making sentences that have good sound and good rhythm and good grammar.

Take a simple example.   Here’s a little paragraph where the sentences are all (mostly) grammatical, but it’s still a bad paragraph:

As she hit the ball, Jill ran for first base.  Running for first base, her foot turned under her, spraining her ankle and putting her on the bench for the rest of the season.

This is, as I said, (mostly) grammatical, in that a native speaker of English can read it and understand what’s going on at the softball game.  But it isn’t good.  It’s clunky, the ideas are in the wrong order, and there’s a dangling participle lurking in there as well.

(Also, entirely too many present participles, period.  Writers get told at some point in high school or thereabouts that they need to vary their sentence structures, and for some reason, the method that a lot of them latch on to is the introductory participial phrase.  People, I’m here to tell you – too many sentences starting with participial phrases is just as monotonous as a bunch of simple subject-verb-direct object sentences lined up in a row.)

But I digress.  Let’s fix that little paragraph, a bit at a time.

Sentence one:  As she hit the ball, Jill ran for first base.  This is bad because one, it takes two ideas of roughly the same weight and makes one of them subordinate to the other; and two, it puts the actions into the wrong order.  First Jill hits the ball; then she runs for first base.  So we can fix this sentence by changing it to:  Jill hit the ball and ran for first base.

Sentence two:  Running for first base, her foot turned under her, spraining her ankle and putting her on the bench for the rest of the season.  This sentence is also bad for a couple of reasons and not just one.  The biggie, of course, is the dangling participle right at the beginning:  Running for first base, her foot turned under her.  This is wrong because it isn’t the foot that’s running for first base, it’s Jill.  The first thing we do to fix this sentence, then, is to break that part off from the rest of the sentence and rewrite it:  While she was running, her foot turned under her.  (We also ditch the repetition of for first base, because the reader’s seen that already and we don’t need to have another iteration of it cluttering up the page.)

This leave us with spraining her ankle and putting her on the bench for the rest of the season.  There are a couple of different ways to fix this part, depending upon whether you think that the sprained ankle or the benching for the season is the more important idea, or whether you want to give the two ideas approximately equal weight.

You could throw the emphasis onto the sprained ankle:  She sprained her ankle, which put her on the bench for the rest of the season.

You could emphasize the fact that Jill has been put out of action:  Because she sprained her ankle, she was put on the bench for the rest of the season.

Or you could get fancy and use a semicolon to hook up two equivalent clauses, giving them both equal weight and letting the reader determine their relationship:  She sprained her ankle; the injury put her on the bench for the rest of the season.

I like that last one – but then, I generally like semicolons.  Let’s use it anyway, for maximum sentence variety.  That gives us a new, finished paragraph:

Jill hit the ball and ran for  first base.  While she was running, her foot turned under her.  She sprained her ankle; the injury put her on the bench for the rest of the season.

This still isn’t one of the world’s blue-ribbon paragraphs – but it’s better than the one we started with.

And the voice from the back of the lecture hall asks, “Do I have to think like that about all my paragraphs?”

Sadly, yes.  But not until the second or third draft.  Finish the story first, then work on making the sentences better.  Because pretty sentences will get you nowhere if you haven’t got a story for them to tell.