Sunday, May 07, 2006

Style Summary 6

Style Summary, Lesson 6: Emphasis

It seems that a fundamental rule of human experience holds true in sentences. If you want peopel to remember you, go out with a bang! Williams advises writers to build momentum in their sentences for strong finishes. This is not just for tone, but for subject matter, grammar, and complexity. Grammar, for instance, should begin simply in a sentence, then swell towards a more complex finish. Complex terms, likewise, should be explained in the build-up. Technical terms should be moved to the ends of sentences rather than the beginnings. In this sense, a good sentence should be like its own tiny symphony, beginning simply and rising to a complex crescendo.

That crescendo is the stress of the sentence as Williams describes it. A sentence has stresses, (or can have them) much like a word has stresses. The last few words of a sentence are the stress of a sentence--the emphatic portion. Use the first few words for the point of view, and the last few for emphasis.

Limp-wristed sentences can be changed with a few tactical revisions. A quick trim to the end, a shift of peripheral ideas to the left, and a shift of new information to the right will have you all set with a nicely emphasized sentence. Williams provides six devices to emphasizing the right words. 1.) One may use passives to move the idea closer to the stress position. 2.) "There is" and "there are" can be used to help order information. 3.) Using "what" at the beginning of a sentence can shift part of the sentence to the right. 4.) A similar "It"-shift can move a long noun clause. 5.) With the formula of "Not only 'x,' but 'y,'" the y-portion is emphasized by the "but." 6.) Lastly, the exclusion of the repetition of a noun from the end of a sentence can prove beneficial; i.e using pronouns instead of regular nouns at the ends of sentences.

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