Presentation on theme: "Syntax The way a sentence or phrase is arranged. Includes: Word order Sentence length Sentence focus Punctuation."— Presentation transcript:
Syntax The way a sentence or phrase is arranged. Includes: Word order Sentence length Sentence focus Punctuation
Syntax builds meaning and purpose Good writers make decisions about syntax because they know that effective word order and sentence structure will help them build meaning, purpose and effect with readers. It will help them establish themselves as ethically credible writers. It will influence the readers’ emotions and interests.
Types of sentences Writers choose to use simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences because they are particularly effective at the specific location of the piece where they are used. -The boy was worried about the test. (simple) -The boy was worried about the test, and he studied for several hours. (compound) -Because the boy was worried about the test, he studied for several hours. (complex) -Because the boy was worried about the test, he studied for several hours, and his hard work paid off. (compound-complex)
Length of sentences Writers choose to vary sentence lengths for an array of reasons: to build up an impressive accumulation of information, to pull a reader up short and make him or her take notice, to imitate the action of the piece, and so on. Are the sentences telegraphic (shorter than 5 words in length), short (approximately 5 words in length), medium (approximately 18 words in length), or long and involved (30 words or more in length)? What is the effect?
This sentence has five words. This is five words too. Five word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the symbols, and sounds that say listen to this, it is important. Gary Provost on the Rhythms of Sentence Length
Active versus Passive Voice Writers may use the passive voice purposefully, to disguise or withhold any sense of urgency, making it appear that things "just happen." Generally, writers use the active voice to make bold statements about "who is doing what to whom.“ Example: The boy threw the ball. (Active) The ball was thrown by the boy. (Passive) CAVEAT: Unless striving for a particular effect, avoid the passive voice. Passivity adds verbosity (wordiness).
Active versus Passive The coolant pumps were destroyed by a surge of power. A surge of power destroyed the coolant pumps. The goalie was crouched low when he reached out his stick. The goalie crouched low, swept out his stick, and hooked the rebound.
Structural Distinctions Loose sentence -- basic sentence with details added immediately at the end of the basic sentence elements. Abraham Lincoln wept (basic sentence) Abraham Lincoln wept, fearing that the Union would not survive if the southern states seceded. (loose sentence – sometimes called cumulative) Loose sentences relieve tension and allow the reader to explore the rest of the sentence without urgency.
Structural Distinctions Periodic sentence -- sentence in which additional details are placed before the basic sentence elements. Abraham Lincoln wept. (basic sentence) Alone in his study, lost in somber thoughts about his beloved country, dejected but not broken in spirit, Abraham Lincoln wept. (periodic sentence) Periodic sentences carry high tension and interest; the emphasis is delayed until the end.
Structural Distinctions Inverted - The inverted order of a sentence is another way of writing a sentence in which the predicate appears before the subject. Example – In the next room plays music. Interrupted - The sentence is interrupted, usually with dashes. Example - In the next room music –my favorite song - plays.
Parallel Structure When a passage, a paragraph, or a sentence contains two or more ideas that are fulfilling a similar function, a writer who wants to sound measured, deliberate, and balanced will express those ideas in the same grammatical forms-- words balance words, phrases balance phrases, clauses balance clauses, and sentences balance sentences.
Words Balance Words He loved swimming, running, and playing tennis. Exercise physiologists argue that body-pump aerobics sessions benefit a person's heart and lungs, muscles and nerves, and joints and cartilage.
Phrases Balance Phrases... and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. – Lincoln at Gettysburg
Now in speaking like this, it doesn’t mean that we’re anti-exploitation, we’re anti-degradation, we’re anti-oppression. And if the white man doesn’t want us to be anti-him, let him stop oppressing and exploiting and degrading us.”- Malcolm X
Loren Eiseley, Unexpected Universe Man, for all his daylight activities, is, at best, an evening creature. Our every addiction to the day and our compulsion, manifest through the ages, to invent and use illuminating devices, to contest with midnight, to cast off sleep as we would death, suggest that we know more of the shadows than we are willing to recognize. ---
Student example of parallel phrases With the scorching prairie fires, it came. With the surging floods, it came. With the defensive Indians, it came. With every step, death came to the wagon trains.
Clauses balance Clauses I had always marveled at the Bellerbys. They seemed to me to be survivors from another age and their world had a timeless quality. They were never in a hurry; they rose when it was light, went to bed when they were tired, ate when they were hungry and seldom looked at a clock. --- James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small
Carl Sagan, Cosmos They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a job, that knowledge is a prerequisite to survival.
Parallelism in The Book of Ruth Where thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God.
Sentence balance sentence Don’t knock parallelism. It sings. It excites. It works.
The Use of Parallel Structure There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call... The Twilight Zone. -Zicree, 1989
Alliteration Several words in a phrase begin with the same or similar sounds. …to have and to hold… pride of place cool as a cucumber
PUNCTUATION Punctuation reinforces meaning, constructs effect, and – of particular interest to students of writing -- expresses the writer’s voice. To shape voice, consider: The Semicolon (;) The Colon (:) The Dash (--) The Parentheses ()
The Semicolon The semicolon gives equal weight to two or more independent clauses in a sentence It can reinforce parallel ideas: “E.T., don’t phone home; it’s too expensive.” El Paso Herald-Post It imparts equal importance to both (or all) of the clauses: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness...” Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
The Colon The colon directs the reader’s attention to the words that follow. It is also used in between independent clauses if the second summarizes or explains the first. A colon sets the expectation that important, closely related information will follow; words after the colon are emphasized.
Example The seven years’ difference in our ages lay between us like a chasm: I wondered if these years would ever operate between us as a bridge. James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues” The “chasm” of the first clause is connected to the “bridge” of the second clause, and the possibility of reconciliation for the characters is raised through the syntax.
The Dash The dash marks a sudden change in thought or tone, sets off a brief summary, and often adds drama. “But the show’s most famous motto – “Live long and prosper!” – proved to be downright prophetic.” Michael Logan, TV Guide It may be used to elaborate on a previously stated idea, often changing the meaning of the sentence. In fact, many times good writers will use a dash to create an anomaly, a departure from the expected. “In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people -- the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.” George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”
The Parentheses The parentheses are used to whisper a witty aside to the reader. Parentheses can make a remark seem more confidential. “Tourists...swarm all over the Statue of Liberty (where many a resident of the town has never set foot), they invade the Automat, visit radio stations, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and they window shop.” -- E.B.White “In a trice (which, in Bangladesh, is two and a half hours) we were back in our hired cab.” --P.J. O’Rourke
The grammatical rhythms of good writers sing and sometimes shout! They march. They skip. They paint. They float like the song of a sparrow on a midnight summer breeze. Writers beat rhythms of musical syntax as backgrounds to ideas of joy, love, and anger. In every genre from science fiction to journalism, they use the subtle cadences of structure to emphasize meaning.
Powerpoint adapted from Marcie Belgard Hanford High School Richland, Washington