Science for the Public and more…

Posts tagged ‘sentence structure’

Mood vs. Tense

By: Maeve Maddox

From: Daily Writing Tips

Many people are not quite clear as to the difference between the grammatical terms mood and tense. For example, I’ve seen such expressions as “subjunctive tense” and “progressive mood.”

Because both tense and mood have to do with verbs, the confused terminology is understandable. Tense, however, refers to time, whereas mood refers to manner of expression.

Tense
The three possible divisions of time are past, present, and future. For each, there is a corresponding verb tense:

Present: He walks now.
Past: Yesterday he walked.
Future: Tomorrow he will walk.

Each of these tenses has a corresponding complete tense: perfect, past perfect (pluperfect), and future perfect:

Perfect: He has walked every morning since Monday.
Past Perfect: He had walked a mile by the time we joined him.
Future Perfect: By tomorrow, he will have walked twenty miles.

Each of these tenses has a continuous or progressive form:

Present Continuous: I am still walking.
Past Continuous: I was still walking when you phoned.
Future Continuous: I shall/will be walking when you reach town.
Perfect Continuous: I have been walking since early morning.
Past Perfect Continuous: I had been walking for an hour when you phoned.
Future Perfect Continuous: When you see me, I shall have been walking for six hours.

Mood
Mood is the form of the verb that shows the mode or manner in which a thought is expressed. Mood distinguishes between an assertion, a wish, or a command. The corresponding moods are: Indicative (assertion), Subjunctive (wish), and Imperative (command).

Note: Unlike some languages, English does not have an “Interrogative Mood”; questions are formed by changing word order and not by altering the verb.

The word indicative derives from Latin indicare, “to declare or state.” Indicative Mood expresses an assertion, denial, or question about something:

Assertion: I liked him very much before he did that.
Denial: He is not going to remain on my list of friends.
Question: Will you continue to see him?

The word imperative derives from Latin imperare, “to command.” Imperative Mood expresses command, prohibition, entreaty, or advice:

Command: Go thou and do likewise.
Prohibition: Stay out of Mr. MacGregor’s garden!
Entreaty: Remember us in your prayers.
Advice: Beware of the dog.

The “true subjunctive” equivalent to the Latin Optative Mood (opare, “to wish”) is rare in modern English. Examples of the “true” subjunctive: “If I were king,” “God save the Queen!”

In most contexts dealing with unreal situations, speakers used a mixed subjunctive. The use of the auxiliaries may, might, should, and would creates a mixed subjunctive in which one verb is in subjunctive and another in indicative mood:

If I should see him, I will tell him.
He came that they might have life.

According to the Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar, the distinctive subjunctive forms are now confined to the verb be and to the third-singular forms of other verbs; they are still common in American English, while in British English they are confined to very formal styles.

In American English, the subjunctive often occurs with the following verbs:

suggest: I suggest that she refuse his offer.
demand: They are demanding that he go to London for an interview.
propose: The father proposed that his son be locked up to teach him a lesson.
insist: We all insisted that he accept treatment.

British usage tends to use should in such constructions: I suggest that she should refuse his offer.

 

Advertisements

Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctions are words that link words, phrases, and clauses and provide a smooth transition between ideas.

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Some adverbs can also join or show connections between ideas. When they do this, they are called conjunctive adverbs.

Conjunctive adverbs show comparison, contrast, sequence, cause-effect, or other relationships between ideas.

The most common conjunctive adverbs are:

accordingly
also
besides
consequently
conversely
finally
furthermore
hence
however
indeed
instead
likewise
meanwhile
moreover
nevertheless
next
nonetheless
otherwise
similarly
still
subsequently
then
therefore
thus

Conjunctive adverbs function in three ways.

1. They indicate a connection between two independent clauses in one sentence:

The primary meaning of the term ḥeḥ was “million” or “millions”; subsequently, a personification of Ḥeḥ was adopted as the Egyptian god of infinity.

In this explanation of why a particular word was personified the way it was, subsequently joins the ideas and conveys sequence at the same time. The word heh means millions; it follows that the personification derived from heh would be a god of infinity.

2. They link ideas in two or more sentences.

Democracy has empowered thousands upon thousands of the “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish,” who come from a mix of different nationalities. All hope is not lost, however, since there are “hundreds who are wise.”

 

In this quotation from a speech by Woodrow Wilson, the however connects and contrasts “thousands of foolish citizens” in the first sentence with “hundreds who are wise” in the second sentence.

3. They show relationships between ideas within an independent clause.

We are determined to do whatever must be done in the interest of this country and, indeed, in the interest of all to protect the dollar as a convertible currency at its current fixed rate.

In this quotation from a speech by John F. Kennedy, indeed connects ideas within the sentence: the idea of doing something on a national level and on an international level as well.

Punctuation note: A conjunctive adverb within a sentence is set off by commas. A conjunctive adverb that begins or ends a sentence is set off by one comma:

Therefore, let us reconsider this legislation that marginalizes a large proportion of employees.

You were late for the fifth time today; you are dismissed, therefore.

From: Daily Writing Tips

How to Write a Good Sentence

Joan Y. Edwards (my favorite blogger)

It is imperative to have a subject and a predicate to make a complete sentence. In other words, your sentence has to have a noun and a verb.

I love the quote from Joyce Griffith, Griffith Publishing “How long should a sentence be? As long as it needs to be, but no longer.”

Two of my blog articles listed below have memorable lines from movies or books. It is a great idea to find good sentences and share them in a blog post or with your writing group(s). I am excited that Shannon Doyne and Holly Epstein Ojalvo said, “Make a collection of your favorite sentences from anywhere.”

I think it’s a good plan to note the book, magazine, newspaper, movie, television show, or person who said them. For comparison and to help you recognize when your sentences aren’t up to par, list bad sentences and sentence fragments. Share them in a blog post or with your writing groups.

I have heard people say to learn to write a picture book, copy the words of your favorite. My granddaughter, Kylie Hackett, says she can write better when she writes things in her own handwriting. Many writers swear to this technique.  They write their first drafts with pen or pencil and paper.

Try writing down at least 3 of your favorite sentences from best-selling books in longhand. It may unleash your senses and make connections with your brain to create wonderful sentences. Then write your own sentence about your story and your characters using that same pattern.

Here’s a sentence from a best-selling book, Middle Passage by Charles R. Johnson. I like its structure and sound:

“Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.” I found it on Ranker.com. It has listings of first lines, videos, and links to buy, too.

I rewrote this sentence to fit two of my current works in progress: I didn’t use longhand. I typed them into the computer.

Of all things that drove Lisa to thoughts of death, the most serious one was her pregnancy.

Of all things that enticed Aunt Sophie to make biscuits, the most effective one was a smile.

Another webpage I recommend to study sentences is Story Starters.  When you click on the button in a box on the page, it shows you a great opening line for a story. Try it. It’s number 12 in the Related Articles. Each sentence is original and clever.

If you have 50 good sentences and one bad sentence on a page, it ruins your credibility with readers. The readers may close the book. You say, “Not just for one error.” You may be right. However, if there are more than three bad sentences on one page, I believe the reader will close the book.

There’s one thing that might keep them in regardless of the errors, that is curiosity about what is going to happen to your main character. Make your writing intriguing and coherent. Put all parts of the story together in a logical order that makes the story easy to understand. Each sentence in your story must be necessary to highlight character, plot, problem, solution, setting, or weather. If the sentence doesn’t move the plot or story along, cut it out and save it in a ‘Great writing but not necessary for this story” folder.

There are many places where it is essential to have strong sentences that hook the readers:

  • At the beginning of the book in the first chapter.
  • At the beginning of each chapter.
  • At the end of each chapter. It has to lead readers to wonder what will happen on the next page.

Unless you are writing flash fiction, it is important not to put your whole story in one sentence. Charles Dickens had extremely long sentences with 100 words or more. I noticed one page had only two paragraphs on it. A manuscript page has 250 words. If each sentence had 100 words in it, one paragraph might take up more than one page. Most of the J. K. Rowling Harry Potter books have sentences of 40 words.

Here’s a lesson to learn from these two writers. Not all of their sentences were long. Some were short, others were middle length. They varied their sentences in the descriptive text and in the dialogue. A sentence with punch is usually a short sentence or a phrase of dialogue that might not be a complete sentence. They put short sentences to add tension and punch to their stories. They put long sentences in between crisis situations. That made it seem like everything was going along smoothly.

Do that with your writing, too. Vary the length and structure of your sentences to keep your reader’s attention.

Radio likes simple sentences, rather than compound or complex. Simple for the ear. You don’t have to put the whole story into one sentence. However, flash fiction tells a story in as few words as possible.

What do I mean by structure? A sentence is simple, compound, or complex.  Here are examples:

  • A simple sentence has one subject and one verb.
    John ran to the store.
  • A sentence can have a compound subject.
    Harry and John ran to the store.
  • A sentence can have a compound verb.
    Jill cut and pasted the labels.
  • A complex sentence has one independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
  • A phrase is a group of related words that does not have both a subject and a verb
  • An independent clause is a group of related words with a subject and a verb and can stand by itself.
  • A dependent clause does not express a complete thought. It does not have a subject and a verb. A dependent or subordinate clause standing alone is a common error known as a sentence fragment.

Phrase (Sentence Fragment): The town in the center of the state
Phrase (Sentence Fragment): Lemon merengue pie on the shelf
Phrase (Sentence Fragment): In the corner

Compound sentence: The eagle landed and it shook its feathers.
Complex Sentence: Before the eagle landed, it shook its feathers.

Compound sentence: The skies darkened and the town slept.
Complex sentence: When the skies darkened, the town slept.

Compound sentence: The clock stopped and the people died.
Complex sentence: Once the clock stopped, the people died.

Good sentences keep your readers in the book from the beginning to the end. Good luck with your writing.

Related Articles:

  1. Dena Harrison, Northern Writing Project Nevada and Writing Fix.com “Little Red Riding Hooks:” http://writingfix.com/PDFs/Writing_Tools/Little_Red_Riding_Hooks.pdf
  2. Ehow.com. “How to Write a Main Idea Sentence:” http://www.ehow.com/how_2063892_write-main-idea-sentence.html
  3. Ehow.com. “How to Write a Topic Sentence:” http://www.ehow.com/how_5489760_write-topic-sentence.html
  4. Geoffrey Williams.
  5. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Elements of Literature, Second Course, “Varying Sentence Structure:” http://go.hrw.com/resources/go_mk/la/latm/EOL807SW.PDF
  6. Joan Y. Edwards. “First Lines from Non-Fiction Best Sellers:” http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/first-lines-from-non-fiction-best-sellers/
  7. “How Many Words Should Your Sentences Contain?” http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/how-many-words-should-your-sentences-contain/
  8. Joan Y. Edwards. “Memorable First Lines:” http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/memorable-first-lines/
  9. Joyce Griffin. “How Long Should a Sentence Be:” http://jgwritingtips.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/how-long-should-a-sentence-be/
  10. Margot Carmichael Lester. Elance.com. “Punching Up Your Copy:” http://www.elance.com/q/blog/2010/punching-up-your-copy.html
  11. My English Teacher.net. “Sentence Fragments:” http://www.myenglishteacher.net/sentencefragments.html
  12. Newswriting for Radio.com. “Broadcast Sentence Structure:” http://www.newscript.com/sentence.html
  13. Northern Writing Project Nevada and Writing Fix.com. “Story Starters: Powerful Sentences:” http://writingfix.com/right_brain/Story_Starting_Sentences1.htm
  14. Ranker.com. “100 Famous Novels with Catchy First Lines:” http://www.ranker.com/list/100-famous-novels-with-catchy-first-lines/info-lists
  15. Ranker.com. “Middle Passage.” Read more at http://www.ranker.com/review/middle-passage/7105436#iSiCdfPAxRr8flPI.99
  16. Scholastic Professional Books. Step by Step Strategies for Teaching Expository Writing. “Main Idea Story Starters:” http://ch086.k12.sd.us/Science%20Fair/main_idea_sentence_starters.htm
  17. Shannon Doyne and Holly Epstein Ojalvo. “Sense, Sensibility and Sentences: Examining and Writing Memorable Lines:” http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/sense-sensibility-and-sentences-examining-and-writing-memorable-lines/
  18. Sheila Allee. Ragan.com. “Add Punch to Your Speeches in 6 Easy Steps:” http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/Add_punch_to_your_speeches_in_6_easy_steps_45218.aspx#
  19. WritingFix and the Northern Nevada Writing Project. “Story Starters: Powerful Sentences:” http://writingfix.com/right_brain/Story_Starting_Sentences1.htm

 

Tag Cloud