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The Art and Science of a Sentence.

Writing begins with making sentences. You could argue that the words are more valuable than the sentence, but in this regard, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Words allow you to construct sentences, but the sentence is what contains the ideas, the actions, and the true spirit of the author's intent.

So how do you write good sentences? First, master the basics. Then, express your creativeness!

The Basics of Sentence Writing
As you likely already know, every sentence you write must have a subject and a predicate. The subject is what the sentence is about. In the sentence "The dog ran across the street," the dog is the subject because the sentence is about the dog. The subject of your sentence is almost always be a noun (person, place, thing, or idea.) The predicate is what is being told about the subject. In our example, the predicate is "ran across the street," because that is what the dog did. Think of the predicate as being what happened, what changed, or the description of the subject.

In the following sentences, the subject is in bold, and the predicate is italic:

The fireman quickly drove the firetruck to the burning house.
Getting first place made her very happy.
will rot your teeth.

As you can see, there are variations regarding the length of the predicate. In some literary circles, the predicate (called the simple predicate) should be only the verb in the sentence that relates to the subject. (Candy is the subject, and the verb is "rot.") Others define the predicate as everything outside of the subject. We have illustrated both ways in the examples above.


Writing Great Sentences
Unless you're writing a technical article or a manual for something, a great sentence usually has very descriptive words. This is because the more descriptive the sentence, the easier it is for your reader to visualize the world you are creating through your words. Let's take a simple sentence and make it a great, descriptive sentence that you can see.

Example: We watched the sun rising over the mountains while drinking hot cocoa.

Let's describe the sunrise:
We watched the firey orange sun rising over the mountains while drinking hot cocoa.

Now let's make "drinking hot cocoa" something easier to visualize:
We watched the firey orange sun rising over the mountains while sipping on a steamy mug of hot cocoa.

If you've ever seen a sunrise over the mountains, you know that the mountains are quite beautiful as the sun rays are on them. So, why not describe either their beauty, or the actions creating their beauty? Describing their beauty is great - and it will vary from one person to another. The actions of creating the beauty will so differ from person to person, but let's see if we can make it easier to visualize:
We watched the firey orange sun rising, enveloping the cold, snow capped mountains with its golden rays, while sipping on a steamy mug of hot cocoa.

Since this sentence is getting long, we would not want to add too much more to it - but as it is now, it lets you visualize the cold looking mountains basking in the golden sunrays, and having some nice, steamy hot chocolate.

There's still more to be done!
What if the sunrise is beautiful, but because your camping supplies fell off a cliff, you're not really enjoying the hot cocoa? Include both emotions in the sentence! Depending on how it's done, it can either be humorous or really make the reader feel for whomever is drinking the hot chocolate:
We watched the firey orange sun rising, enveloping snow capped mountains with its golden rays, while chugging on murky, lukewarm hot chocolate. If Tom had no lost his backpack on the hike up here, we may have been having a delicious breakfast. However, that was not the case.
Or even:
While gulping down the last of the hot chocolate, we watched the firey orange sun rising, enveloping snow capped mountains with its golden rays. It was going to be a long day, as we had just used the last of our water to make the hot chocolate...

The possibility really are endless. (And, we admit - one of those descriptive sentences border on being a run-on sentence!) You don't even have to follow what the textbooks say when writing. You can write in any style, that you want - as long as your reader is expecting it, or at the very least, will deal with it. There are very famous authors who have used sentences that have spanned an entire page! We certainly wouldn't recommend this, but if your occasionally have to "break a rule" in order to best express what you're writing, do it! Of course, try to see if there is another way to write the idea - but if you've written 20 pages and you have one sentence that's a run-on sentence that contributes (and doesn't detract) to what you've written, you are the creative person, not the person who must obey every rule of writing because somebody says that you shouldn't write like that. (Hey, that was a run-on!)

If you choose to "break a writing rule" and you're writing for a class and will be graded on the paper, you may want to express to the grader/teacher what you have done, that it is intentional, and that you believe that what you have done is truly the best way of expressing your ideas. Most teachers will make alternate suggestions, but many of them will allow for your "broken rule" to slide by because it does add to the personality of the paper.

Happy writing!

Been writing too much lately and your wrists hurt? Do some reading by selecting another Writing Topic in the Writing Lesson Center!


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