Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Great writing is not born. It grows into a prose sentence by sentence. Yet, many overlook the most important unit. What is that? The answer is the outcome – the manuscripts that never see the light of the day and the writing careers that never begin.
So, roll up your sleeves to craft one bold, easy sentence after another. As soon as we leaf through a sentence, we know whether it is good or not. Yet recognising a sentence and understanding it are two different things. Appreciating the problems that afflict a sentence requires thought, timing and grounding in grammar.
Surely good sentences have something to do with grammar stuff that we were supposed to pay attention to in our school days. But that somehow escaped us. That has put us to shame ever since.
What is a sentence?
A sentence conveys a complete thought. It requires a subject and a verb, the king and the queen. Both are the most powerful when they sit on adjacent thrones rather than in separate castles far away.
Let’s see how the downfall of an important political figure has been described in the New York Times.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whose rise to political power as a fierce enforcer of ethics in public life was under revelations of his own involvement with prostitutes, resigned on Wednesday, becoming the first New York governor to leave office amid scandal in nearly a century.
The sentence is clear and carefully written. Yet, there are 24 words between the subject and the verb. Ergo, our queen and king have been separated.
A curious reader rewrote the sentence and sent it back to the newspaper.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned on Wednesday, becoming the first New York governor in nearly a century to leave office amid scandal. Having risen to power as a fierce enforcer of ethics in public life, Spitzer was undone by revelations of his own involvement with prostitutes.
The second sentence is more comprehensive and lucid. That is the advantage of putting the subject and the verb together.
For every writer, it is necessary to set up a sentence clinic. Emperor Joseph-II complains to Mozart in the film, Amadeus, “Too many notes …. There are too many notes an ear can hear.” Mozart asks which one the emperor would like cut. The answer is fair.
We stumble on long sentences daily. We have to read twice to understand them. We must attempt to diagnose them at a sentence clinic and operate them with surgical precision. The difficulty is not the number, but the way the notes are arranged.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)