How to write an effective sentence
Writing a perfect sentence is an art and each writer should master it if he or she wants to become recognized. Check out our selection of unique pieces of advice from the celebrated authors who definitely know how to write an effective sentence.
Write better by improving the sentence structure as well as its meaning.
“Good prose is like a windowpane.”
Here is a phrase that belongs to George Orwell. What he meant was that your reader should notice the words in your sentence no more than someone looking through glass notices the glass.
He also wrote that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity” and “if it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” Make your sentences plain, unembellished and invisible.
The writer James Baldwin also aimed “to write a sentence as clean as a bone”, i.e. for a successful piece of writing you need to ensure that the information within the sentence is clear. Writing good sentences means writing clear sentences.
The poet Wayne Koestenbaum is sure that “pushing a sentence in a wrong direction without altering its sweet grammatical composure”. He calls this “organizing lava” meaning that it’s effective if a sentence begins in one place and ends up in a completely new unexpected surrounding without actually breaking any syntactic rule.
“And into that gate, they shall enter, and in that house, they shall dwell, where there shall be no Cloud, nor Sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light…”
Here is an excerpt from John Donne’s sermon the sentences in which juxtapose their true purposes in allusive images and phrases. Donne’s writing effectively combines reason and judgment with gentleness and passion.
“Thinking is my fighting.”
Here, we can see how powerful this short sentence of Virginia Woolf is. A strong verb and a concrete subject make this sentence sound very effective. Woolf wanted to go beyond the “formal railway line of a sentence” and was an active user of the verbs. She wanted to demonstrate how different people “feel or think or dream … all over the place.” Sentences in Woolf’s works can be called serpentine, although she liked to vary the length of them.
“The sentence is a lonely place.”
The author of this claim Gary Lutz said that he preferred writing in which “the sentence is a complete, portable solitude, a minute immediacy of consummated language”. As per Lutz, the effective sentence must be “a totality, an omnitude, unto itself”, which can be found on each page of any book.
“And then, just like that, I was folding your son’s laundry.”
This is a sentence from Maggie Nelson’s book The Argonauts, which is about the development of the romantic relationship. The book is written in the form of single sentences and short paragraphs with pauses between them.
“Why do we concern ourselves over which side of the membrane of soil our feet poke?”
The writer Annie Dillard said that the effective sentence must get the reader into the unexpected. She likes to start her works this way and each time creates a similarly surprising ending.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke considered that each sentence has to have enough life with “every step an arrival”. Holding the reader’s attention and moving the writing along by means of perfect sentences is what makes a great piece of writing.