Category Archives: Sentence Structure

IWSG #6 – Writing: The Complete Thought

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

 To celebrate three years of the IWSG and one year of the website and Facebook group, the IWSG Team is putting together an eBook that will benefit all writers – The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond.

oOo

I was invited to contribute. Here’s my submission:

The Sentence

Sentences are complete thoughts.

We have simple thoughts:

Anna typed a word.

A simple sentence or thought usually has a subject and predicate which may or may not include an object.

We have compound thoughts:

Anna typed a word, but she misspelled it.

To identify a compound sentence, simply look for a comma before a common coordinating conjunction that links two subjects and two predicates. Some common conjunctions are: and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet. If you need more, do an internet search for a complete list. I have mine posted by my monitor.

There are complex thoughts:

Deciding to write, Anna, a slow typist, typed a word, focused to help aspiring writers, but she misspelled it; disgusted, she got up, and walked away.

The above may not be perfect. But notice what I’ve tried to incorporate within the thought. It has detail that the simple and compound sentence doesn’t. It has clarity, showing more of what I meant to say. And in my opinion, it has captured a moment of my life—imaginary or not.

Note: the rest of this post is only the bare-bone basics of complex sentences. I will include some vocabulary, not to belittle you, but to enable you seek out more information when you want it.

Okay. Lets’ get complex.

I’ll be dissecting:

Deciding to write, Anna, a slow typist, typed a word, focused to help aspiring writers, but she misspelled it; disgusted, she got up, and walked away.

The introduction:

Deciding to write

Introductions can be useful to indicate that time has passed, or the subject changed focus. Play with them. In my case, I was simply taking a short cut, so I could get to the meat of the message I wanted to convey.

The subject:

Anna

Usually a noun. In this case Anna is a proper name and the person taking action in the sentence.

The appositive:

a slow typist

The appositive is a modifying phrase and is specific to the proper name (Anna), giving a detailed description, and occasionally, reminding the reader who the subject is. Useful, if it’s been a while since a character last appeared your story.

The predicate:

typed a word,

is the remainder of the thought. It contains the verb, and in this case, the object.

The verb:

typed

A verb is the action word.

The object:

a word

is by definition the thing, or object acted upon. ‘A word’ is the result of Anna’s action of typing, therefore, I believe it is the object of this sentence.

The modifying phrase:

focused to help aspiring writers

Modifies the ‘a word’, using a dependent phrase can replace an adverb or adjective, and can deepen the meaning of a subject, object or verb. Usually found directly beside the word/phrase to be modified and enclosed within commas. If the phrase is too far away, you’ll land up with a dangling modifier.

Second half of the compound sentence.
but she misspelled it

Dangling modifier is a phrase that points at the wrong verb, subject or object.

Anna climbed the stairs, not looking back.

Adding the modifier here, I’ve stated that the stairs are not looking back. It should have been written like this:

Anna, not looking back, climbed the stairs.

Semi-colon:

; disgusted, she got up, and walked away.

Here I used a semi-colon instead of a conjunction. Use these sparingly. I reserve them for sentences that are closely related; where the second sentence directly refers to the first sentence. A common mistake is to use a comma instead. This error is called a comma splice and must be avoided.

Complex sentences can be written half back to front.

Because she misspelled the word; Anna got up, and walked away.

Above I’ve used a semi-colon as a proprietary comma. I’ve could have written it:

Anna got up, and walked away because she misspelled the word.

You’ll notice I only needed one comma, but because I wrote it half back to front I needed two commas. One was for the sentence being cut in two, which is where I substituted a semi-colon, and the other before the conjunction.

So why do we want to write in such a way–variety, clarity, and emphasis?

Variety

As writers we don’t want to write a story that reads like a first grade reader. Simple thoughts are quick and to the point. When we get into complex sentences we add flavor, but we can’t write with only complex sentences either. We need a variety. We need rhythm.

Clarity

As writers, we try to express what we are imagining. Not an easy task at the best of times, using all the tools available to us we are more able to capture and express what we mean.

Emphasis

The beginning and the end are where we focus as readers. It’s where the writer must put the emphasis of a sentence. In my complex sentence the emphasis is on Anna walking away. It could have just as easily been reworded to focus on her disgust or slow typing.

I encourage you as a writer to play with complex sentences, and master them. They will let your voice and style shine through while expressing exactly what is on your mind.

Thank you and good luck with your writing adventure.

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