Have you ever read a blog where all of the sentences sound the same? Do you feel like your own sentences could use more variety?
Let’s face it: Writing is hard. And that goes for blog writing as much as it does for any other type of writing. In addition to paying attention to facts, spelling, grammar and wording, you also have to watch your sentence rhythm and variety so you don’t put your reader to sleep.
To help you construct better sentences, and sentences with more variety, this post talks about why variety is important and gives you some tips on how you can add variety to your writing.
Sentence variety is important because you don’t want all of your sentences to sound the same. If they’re all constructed the same way, you’ll bore your reader. As you write your next blog post, strive for variety in the length and construction of your sentences, and you’ll hold the reader’s interest better.
Subject-verb-object is the most basic sentence construction, and there’s nothing wrong with using it. But a series of subject-verb-object sentences is repetitive and boring. For example: I attended a lecture. The speaker droned on. I was bored. I fell asleep.
All of those sentences are short, and they all sound the same. How can we add more variety to these sentences? They can be combined into one longer sentence in several ways.
- Reverse the order. Try starting with the verb. For example: “Was I bored, so bored I fell asleep, at the lecture I attended where the speaker droned on.”
- Place the object first. Instead of, “I was so bored I fell asleep at the lecture I attended,” you could say, “The lecture, where the speaker droned on, was so boring that I fell asleep.”
- Place a phrase or clause between the subject and verb. For example: “I attended a lecture, where the speaker droned on, and being bored, I fell asleep.
- Use phrases and clauses at the beginning. For example: Being bored, I fell asleep at the lecture while the speaker droned on.
When you’re writing your blog sentences, another way to add variety is to think about the position of emphasis. Think about what you want to emphasize, and put the most important thing at the end of the sentence, the second most important thing at the beginning, and the least important in the middle. Or, to give it a visual representation: 2/3/1.
Continuing with our example from above, if you wanted to emphasize falling asleep, you could write: “The speaker droned on at a lecture I attended, and I was so bored that I fell asleep.”
Or, if you wanted to emphasize the speaker’s droning, you could write: “I fell asleep because I was so bored at the lecture where the speaker droned on.”
The sentence structure that I’ve been describing is called a periodic sentence. It’s shaped so that the most important idea is at the end for maximum emphasis. You build suspense with this technique. If you place the action – or verb – toward the end of the sentence, you can easily construct a periodic sentence.
Sentences are nothing more than word structures. If you want to keep your readers interested, there are several other techniques you can use to craft memorable – and maybe even shareable – word structures. You can create figurative images, drama and cadence.
You can create figurative images using metaphors and similes for vivid comparisons. They help us understand abstract concepts by comparing them to something more concrete. Using our example from above again, you could say, “The lecture speaker was as boring as watching plaster dry, and I fell asleep.
You can also use personification to bring human qualities to inanimate things or ideas. For example, if you say, “My computer throws a fit every time I try to use it” you’re personifying the computer. Throwing fits is a human quality being used to describe a computer. I found that example on this website, which has more examples of personification.
There are a couple of techniques you can use to create drama. You can use a short sentence to express a vitally important thought, such as: “I fell asleep! I was so bored at the lecture because the speaker droned on.”
Using deliberate omission is also effective. This means leaving out a word or phrase the audience expects to hear. An example is the famous quote by Julius Caesar: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
Creating cadence gives your sentences a rhythm, which helps make them memorable. One technique is parallelism, which occurs when two or more clauses in close proximity have an identical grammatical pattern. For example, you could use three –ing verbs: “The speaker was droning, the lecture was boring, and I was sleeping.”
Repetition of a key word or phrase gives rhythm and power to your sentences. Using our example from above, you could say, “I went to the lecture; I was bored; I fell asleep.” Repeating “I” several times gives the sentence a rhythm.
Another technique is antithesis. In language style, antithesis is a sentence having a parallel structure, but with two parts contrasting each other. An example of antithesis is this: “Speech is silver, but silence is gold.” This example came from here where you can see more examples.
Alliteration also creates cadence. It’s the repetition of a consonant sound several times in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example: “Carrie’s cat clawed her couch, creating chaos.” This example came from this website, where there is an example of alliteration for each letter of the alphabet.
When it comes to using memorable sentences and word structures effectively, you want to make sure you don’t overdo it. Don’t put the focus on your language rather than your content. Use these techniques at specific points in your writing. Save them for when you want your reader to remember your key ideas. These techniques are also good for economizing words when your sentences get too long.
Constructing better and more varied sentences takes time, but the payoff is worth it. Your writing will be more punchy and lively, and most important, it will better hold your reader’s attention.
Readers, do you think about variety in the rhythm and length of your sentences? How do you add variety to your writing? Let us know in the comments!