A single sentence

by Aaron Dennis

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Adennis1111
Posted by ADennis1111
Like a word, a single sentence can make or break a book. Books come in all forms; fiction, non-fiction, entertainment, information, third person omniscient, first person narrative, but the structure is basically the same.

A writer uses words to form a sentence, and the sentence is presented in order to define and clarify an idea, but there are some sentences that do the job better than others.

In the previous post, we saw how changing a single word in a sentence can elicit different imagery. This time, we’ll be playing around with numerous sentences and their structure.

Let’s read a made up paragraph:

Most fishermen would rather have their teeth pulled than wade into their “tackle boxes.” But, if you want to survive and thrive as a fisherman, you can’t afford to avoid experimenting with lures. My aim here is to get you past any difficulties, painlessly. I’ve never found anyone who couldn’t learn this material. Nor have they ever needed anesthesia! You can do this. You may even enjoy it.

Where to begin?

First and foremost, I want to point out the use of would and could. Both of these words make for weak writing. I can expound upon this for hours on end, and eventually, I will, but for now, let’s look at the core idea.

A single paragraph is designed to present a single idea, and the sentences within the paragraph are there to explain the idea in the most concise and cogent terms. So, what’s the key idea, and how do these sentences make or break this book?

The idea is that with this paragraph’s information, a fisherman can thrive. The insinuation is that a fisherman can’t survive without experimenting with lures. Great, but let’s look at the first sentence.

Most fishermen would rather have their teeth pulled than wade into their “tackle boxes.”

First of all, this is a wild assumption. Second of all, using would signifies an if situation; this is not an assertion but a guess.

If people find themselves wading through tackle boxes, they would rather have their teeth pulled. Again, this is an assumption.

A better way to write this is: No fisherman enjoys wading through the tackle box.

Then, why is tackle boxes in quotations? It isn’t a quote. There’s no dialogue. I understand this is written as a first person narrative, so the author is talking to the reader, but then the whole thing requires quotations, and we just don’t do that. Furthermore, tackle boxes isn’t slang, which benefits from an italicized font and not quotations anyway, but we’re deviating from the point, sort of; a sentence is more than what readers hear, it’s also what they see, and the punctuation and grammar employed is supposed to provide the most direct information, especially in regards to an informative book.

The original, first sentence also dives right into the second sentence: But, if you want to survive and thrive as a fisherman, you can’t afford to avoid experimenting.

We do not usually begin a sentence with a conjunction. Remember FANBOYS? If you don’t, get acquainted with the acronym now because you’ll see it again in a later post. FANBOYS is an acronym for the following conjunctions; for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

A conjunction ties two ideas together, so, more appropriately, the first two sentences are a single, complex sentence: Most fishermen would rather have their teeth pulled than wade into their “tackle boxes”, but if you want to survive and thrive as a fisherman, you can’t afford to avoid experimenting with lures.

That’s the correct way to structure this single sentence. The reason the first comma belongs outside the quotation marks is because what’s quoted isn’t dialogue, and needs to not be in quotations anyway. Secondly, you don’t put a comma after but. The comma goes before the conjunction. Now, I want to add that when we deal with dialogue, many of the rules go out the window, but we’ll deal with that in a later post.

We have instead: Most fishermen would rather have their teeth pulled than wade into their tackle boxes, but if you want to survive and thrive as a fisherman, you can’t afford to avoid experimenting with lures.

Now, that’s a big, bulky, clunky sentence. What’s it saying? It’s saying that fishermen don’t want to deal with tackle boxes because it’s unpleasant. Is it unpleasant? Maybe, maybe not; let’s assume it is.

How does the following sentence sound?

No fisherman enjoys wading through the tackle box.

That says it all. It’s concise, it’s direct, it gives the reader no wiggle room; they know beyond a doubt, just by reading that first sentence, that wading through a tackle box sucks.

Now, let’s tackle the next sentence: My aim here is to get you past any difficulties, painlessly.

I don’t know that here is required. Obviously, if reading this paragraph, the aim is provided in here.

My aim is to get you past any difficulties, painlessly.

It works, but again, it sounds clunky.

How about: Unfortunately, experimenting with lures is crucial to all fishermen, but don’t fret; I’m going to show you what to do.

This complex sentence accompanies my edited, first sentence, and it provides reassurance to the reader while reinforcing the original premise; wading through tackle boxes sucks.

Next, the original paragraph has the following: I’ve never found anyone who couldn’t learn this material.

This raises questions; how many people has the writer of this made up paragraph taught? How many people have had trouble trying to get over the trouble of dealing with tackle boxes and lures, and if there’s no trouble involved in learning how to get over the difficulties of dealing with the tackle boxes and lures, why is there (presumably) a whole book devoted to it?

Moreover, this sentence deals with something superfluous. The introduction originally stated that fishermen don’t enjoy wading through tackle boxes, and that the premise of the book was going to be about how to get past that difficulty, but this new sentence addresses the ease with which one can get past the difficulty of how difficult it can be to get past wading through tackle boxes. Did you get all that? Confusing, right?

Let’s just cut this sentence completely and move on to the next one: Nor have they ever needed anesthesia!

Well, crapola; now we start a new sentence with another conjunction, which ties back into the premise that people would rather have teeth pulled than wade through tackle boxes. There’s no need to reinforce a would be scenario, and since this is a fragment, we’ll just cut it, too.

Next, we have: You can do this.

Okay, its’ a little positive reinforcement. That’s good.

Finally, we have: You may even enjoy it.

Aha, but I may not enjoy it, eh? That just negated the previous, positive reinforcement, so we’ll cut that. What do we have left then?

No fisherman enjoys wading through the tackle box. Unfortunately, experimenting with lures is crucial to a fisherman, but don’t fret; I’m going to show you what to do. You can do this.

In this version, the final sentence breaks the flow of the paragraph, so you see how important a sequence of properly written sentences is.

A better way to write this is:

No fisherman enjoys wading through the tackle box. Unfortunately, experimenting with lures is crucial to a fisherman’s success, but don’t fret; I’m going to show you what to do. The following pages are filled with simple rules to follow, which will lead you to an abundance of fish. You can do this, and I’m going to help you.

Now, let’s be honest; which paragraph is more credible, the original or the edited version?

Most fishermen would rather have their teeth pulled than wade into their “tackle boxes.” But, if you want to survive and thrive as a fisherman, you can’t afford to avoid experimenting with lures. My aim here is to get you past any difficulties, painlessly. I’ve never found anyone who couldn’t learn this material. Nor have they ever needed anesthesia! You can do this. You may even enjoy it.

Versus:

No fisherman enjoys wading through the tackle box. Unfortunately, experimenting with lures is crucial to a fisherman’s success, but don’t fret; I’m going to show you what to do. The following pages are filled with simple rules to follow, which will lead you to an abundance of fish. You can do this, and I’m going to help you.

Do you have a better understanding of the importance of proper sentences and how seemingly similar sentences can evoke totally different mindsets? If you have any questions, feel free to drop by my site for more information. www.storiesbydennis.com




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