Sunday, March 20, 2011
here's the old man's handout on syntax
AP English Language/Comp.
Paper revision: Syntax. Improving sentence style
Are your sentences all sentences? Does each have at least a subject and a verb? (Sentence fragments. If one appears, is it intentional and apt and used in a way that makes a legitimate contribution to the text? Should some long ones be broken up?
How long are your sentences? (Count the words in your paper. Then count the sentences. Divide to determine average length.)
Find your longest sentence. Compare the length of the sentence that precedes it and the one that follows it. If your longest sentence is not either followed by or preceded by a short sentence, change one of its neighbors to a short, crisp sentence.
simple sentence: one independent clause
ex: I like tomatoes.
compound sentence: two or more independent clauses
ex: I like tomatoes and I eat them often.
complex sentence: one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses
ex: I like tomatoes that are organically grown.
compound-complex sentence: two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.
ex: I like tomatoes and I eat them often, but only if they are organically grown.
Count (in your paper) each type of sentence structure described in the box above. Record your totals. What type of sentence do you rely upon most? Edit for variety.
Sentence types (in terms of purpose--aka mood)
Declarative—makes a statement: I eat tomatoes.
Imperative—gives a command: Eat that tomato right now.
Interrogative—asks a question: Who can resist tomatoes?
Exclamatory—for emphasis—makes an exclamation: This tomato is delicious!
If all your sentences are declarative, make an effort to include—where appropriate—one or more of the other three types listed here.
Periodic—begins w/subordinate elements, postpones main clause. (builds suspense?)
ex: Now truly depressed and sadly glancing at the trashcans while thinking, “here is a metaphor for my meaningless life,” he vowed to never again go a day without tomatoes.
Loose sentence—subordinate elements come at the end to call attention to them.
ex: He lost interest in school, sports, even tomatoes, caring only about the number of “friends” he had gathered on myspace.
Interrupted sentence—subordinate elements in the middle, often using dashes.
ex: Mikey—after months of eating only tomatoes while locked in his room—ran away with a girl he met online who shared his love of the delicious red fruit.
Parallel Structure—repeated grammatical structures.
ex: We must not ignore the schools without access to quality books, the children without access to quality healthcare, and the honest citizens without access to organic tomatoes.
Balanced sentences—grammatically parallel components balanced against each other.
ex: Outside of a dog a book is man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. (Groucho) ex2: His garden was well-tended and full of tomatoes but his brain was neglected and bereft of ideas.