Once again, this is something that can make or break an author. If you don’t understand proper sentence structure then you are going to lose your readers no matter how well your plot is thought out.
As an author, understanding basic sentence structure is only the tip of the iceberg. We don’t live by following all of the rules, so readers don’t expect to see them followed all of the time. Take this grammatically faulted example for illustration: “Run! Look out! Oh no! Good Lord… What next?” There is nothing in that passage that fits with proper sentence structure but it does elicit emotion and generate interest.
As with all things in life, sentence structure is a balancing act. Sometimes you want to follow the rules; others, you want to break them all. Here are some methods you can use to accomplish both goals:
1. Use proper punctuation!
Something as simple as putting a question mark where a period should be will damage your reputation as a writer. The same is true of using a semi-colon when you meant to use a colon. Know punctuation rules and use them accordingly.
2. Follow the basic rules of grammar but remember you have creative freedom.
Basic sentence structure requires a subject, verb, and object. For example, “He pickup up the gun.” As an author, you do have creative freedom, but use it sparingly when defying the rules and only when it offers an advantage. For instance: “Boom. The bomb exploded without warning. Chaos ensued. Structural integrity failed. Buildings tumbled down. He ran… but where to go? No place to hide. No cover from the debris.”
3. Use a mix of sentence structures.
There are four basic types of sentences: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex. Try to use some of each without becoming obvious in your approach. Here’s an example of each:
“She ran to the corner.”
“The rain was falling hard, and she slipped on the wet pavement.”
“Although she skinned her knees and broke a nail, she was fine.”
“She made it across the street and drummed up the courage to forge ahead even though she knew the odds were stacked against her.”
4. Be creative!
You are, after all, a writer. Don’t just say, “He walked into the bar.” Instead, try something like this: “Drenched from the downpour and seeking refuge from the storm, he entered the bar with a sigh of relief.” Make every sentence count.
5. Don’t write sentences that are too long!
On average, your sentences should be no more than 15 to 20 words. If you ramble on too long, you will lose the reader. Here’s an example of what NOT to do: “The rain was pouring as he walked to the bar, coming down in sheets it was blinding and relentless; he wiped his eyes to see where he was going, but it didn’t help much as he was nearly hit by a car while crossing the street.” Remember, less is more.
In summation, follow the basic rules of grammar but mix it up a bit with your creativity.
As always, best of luck with your writing and keep at it. Check back in regularly for new posts or sign up for my email list so you’ll be notified when I post them.