Journal Idea #14: It’s All in the Form of a Sentence

Illustration: Chiswick Chap

“Not every pretty thing should be touched,” my son read aloud with joy from Anthony Ryan’s The Martyr. The insight of the novel’s protagonist and former outlaw Allwyn Scribe spoke to my son not only because of the ringing truth of its content, but also because of its form.

Look a the placement of the negative adverb at the beginning of the sentence. What a difference it makes to remove it: every pretty thing should be touched.

Consider the turn of the sentence’s final word–touched.

Play with the content: Not very man should be married.

A single sentence can provide so much fun.

Consider keeping a journal where you play with the forms of a sentence.

Your entries could include one or more of the following:

  • Quote a memorably constructed sentence.
  • Imitate a sentence you admire.
  • Define a grammatical construction.
  • Define a rhetorical device.
  • Construct a sentence from a grammatical or rhetorical definition.
  • Play with the construction of a single sentence, trying out diferrent options.
  • Review the function of different punctuation marks.
  • Play with the punctuation of a sentence whose words remain in the same order.
  • Practice combing clauses in different patterns.
  • Savor a sentence by reading it aloud repeatedly with different intonations.
  • Analyze a sentence’s construction.
  • Attempt your own endeavors at techniques described in a book about sentences.

I thoroughly enjoyed Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. I got it for Christmas in 2011 when it was new. If you start looking at the options for books about sentences, you might be surprised at how many exist.

Cicero’s De Inventione

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