Going from thinking to writingWriting is not the same as thinking out loud. There isanother stage involved after thinking, in which words aresifted and selected, and then crafted and combined,in order to create a memorable impression. In thisprocess, each sentence…is both designed and built bythe writer. Good sentences do not just happen: thereis no such thing as an automatic flow of writing.John Peck and Martin Coyle, The Students Guide toWriting
Your aim"Words are our trade. It is not enough to get the news. We must beable to put it across. Meaning must be unmistakable, and it mustalso be succinct. Every word must be understood by the ordinaryreader, every sentence must be clear at one glance".Harold Evans, former editor of The Times and the Sunday TimesEssential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers
Understanding syntaxThe arrangement of words in a sentence. From the Greek, "arrange together".
What are the basic components of a sentence?
Simple sentence construction
Simple sentence constructionAt the most basic level, sentences must include a subject and a verb and may have an object.A subject is the thing or person being describedA verb expresses an actionSentences may also contain an object, which isthe thing or person affected by the actiondescribed in the verb .
Simple sentence examplesI (subject) walk (verb)I (subject) walk (verb) the dog (object)
Different types of sentences
SimpleA simple sentence contains only oneverb.He ran up the hill.
CompoundA compound sentence contains two or moremain verbs and is made up of two sentencesjoined using a conjunction (while, and, but, etc.)He ran up the hill while she waited atthe bottom.
Independent clausesAn independent clause is a completesentence.The house stands on top of the hill.
Dependent clausesA dependent (also known as ‘subordinate’)clause is a related part of a sentence thatdoes not express a complete thoughton its own.The house, which was built in 1970, standson top of the hill.
Complex sentencesA complex sentence contains one or moremain verbs and one or more subsidiaryverbs.He ran up the hill while she waited atthe bottom and timed him using astopwatch.
Combining sentencesSentences can be combined using connectingwords called conjunctions, e.g. ‘but’, ‘and’, ‘or’, etc. John likes reading but his wife prefers to watch TV.
Some common conjunctions (joining words)
What can go wrong?
Commas not conjunctionsSentences are combined using commas ratherthan conjunctions to separate them.John reads, Jane likes to listen to the radio
Fragmented sentencesSentences do not make sense in their own rightbecause they are disconnected from the mainclause. These are called fragmented sentencesI like puddings. Including cakes, trifles and icecream.
PleonasmsSentences become over-long and full ofunnecessary words which may mean thesame thing. These are called pleonasmsIt is absolutely necessary and essentialthat you attend this meeting.
Run-on sentencesTwo sentences are wrongly made into one becausethey are not separated by some kind of punctuationmark. These are called run-on sentencesHe only told me he was coming today he should havetold me yesterday.
Mixed tensesVerb tenses are mixedPeople who were living in therefugee camps are not able to getenough to eat.
QuestionsCan you start a sentences withAnd or ‘But’?It is grammatically correct to start sentences ‘And’ or ‘But.’ Both are commonly used for dramatic impact in news writing.
AndThe commission says 10 million people are notsaving into any pension scheme. And those whoare in a scheme often get charged too much fora service that is inefficient.
ButWhen John Stafford left his house on the morningof 6 July 1979, he believed his wife and daughterwould be waiting for him at the bus station. Butjust an hour later, he received a phone call tellinghim that they were dead.
Questions Active or passive? Which of these intros makes you sit up and take notice?“There were riots in several towns in Northern England lastnight, in which police clashed with stone-throwing youths.”(passive)“‘Youths throwing stones clashed with police during riots inseveral towns in Northern England last night.” (active)Active voice - A does B Passive voice - B is done (usually by A)
QuestionsCan I end a sentence with a preposition?Debatable, according to grammarians. But forjournalism try and avoid it where possible.
Some common prepositions(words that indicate time/location)
How not to use a preposition to end a sentenceThe new policy was something the Prime Minister had not previously thought of.Sentences that end in prepositions can sound clumsyso try and avoid it. This sentence does not flow and theterm thought of is colloquial. The word consideredcould replace the last two words.
When should I start a new paragraph?You should start a new paragraph whenyou have a fresh point to make.Paragraphs must be used to presentinformation in a logical and interestingway.
Paragraph length - newsIn journalism, short paragraphs are used because the text is laid outin columns. Journalists also use concise paragraphs to holdreader’s attention, particularly when writing for the web. A man has died and his wife has been seriously injured during an attack by a horse in Lancashire. They were towing a horse box on the A56 in Haslingden on Wednesday evening when the horse became agitated, police said. (BBC NEWS website)
Paragraph length – academic writingIn academic writing, longer paragraphsare used to display information anddevelop ideas and arguments.
Five questions to consider when crafting sentences and paragraphs- Is this a sentence?- Am I in control of the different elements of the sentence(clauses, etc)- Have I got the words in the right order?- Does each sentence lead on from the sentence before?- Do the separate sentences combine to form an effectiveparagraph?