Writing in an interesting way is a skill, which can be learnt. The purpose of this page is to give you some guidelines and exercises so that your writing at sentence level will have greater variety.
1: ‘-ing’ STARTS TO SENTENCES
Writing with style includes using a variety of different sentence structures. The ‘-ing’ sentence is a very useful way to make your writing style more interesting – look at my first sentence in this paragraph.
The task in Qs 1-10 is to rewrite the sentences into one beginning (or nearly beginning) with an ‘–ing’ word/phrase. You may have to use some new words in your sentence and knock out others. Make sure that the final sentence makes sense! The idea is to rethink and rewrite. There are many alternative answers to each Q – just choose one! You will be changing compound sentences and short sentences into one complex sentence. Remember commas will probably be needed.
I went back to the newsagent because I had forgotten to buy a paper.
This sentence is a perfectly respectable complex sentence, however using ‘–ing’ gives a different feel to the meaning and it removes one of the ‘I’s:
Forgetting to buy a paper meant I had to go back to the newsagents.
I thought you’d be out. I did not hurry back.
Thinking you’d be out, I did not hurry back.
They trudged off the pitch after they had they had lost the game.
This is another respectable complex sentence but look at the effect of removing a ‘they’:
Having lost the game, they trudged off the pitch
The game being lost, they trudged off the pitch.
Now try rewriting these yourself
- The house has a view. The house is on a hill.
- I thought the computer would not start. I wrote this by hand.
- When she found the books. She phoned me straight away.
- I thought that you would do well. I bought champagne.
- Peter escaped. Peter ran very fast.
- I knew there was a problem. I went to work.
- She missed the game because she was injured.
- The wind made the trees bend. The wind blew strongly.
- I looked at the garden. The garden was full of weeds.
- The traffic was very heavy on the A30. I took another route
Next, try some of your own in your next piece of writing! (Allez-y!)
This is the second paRT on how to make your writing more interesting by varying sentence structure. Here, we are looking at the adverbial. Bear with me for a moment – don’t be put off by the terminology – it won’t take long.
Adverbials are those parts of the sentence which deal with:
- How something is done
- Where it is done
- When it is done
If in doubt, just ask ‘How, when or where is this being done?’ Here are three examples:
Example 1 – a ‘how’ adverbial:
She got the car going, by holding down the accelerator.
Q: How diId she start the car?
A: by holding down the accelerator.
Example 2 – a ‘where’ adverbial:
Jack and Jill went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water.
Q: Where did Jack and Jill go?
A: Up the hill.
Example 3 a ‘time’ adverbial:
She spoke to him about it, three weeks ago.
Q: When did she speak to him about it?
A: about three weeks ago.
You may have noticed the comma is used to separate off parts of the sentence – it is used very often and it can signal the adverbial itself. Note: there can be more than one adverbial in a sentence e.g.
Yesterday (‘when adverbial’), I saw the same two strangers coming out of his garden (‘where’ adverbial).
O.K. How does this help us to write better, then? Well, the adverbial can appear in different parts of the sentence. If you want to give the ‘how’, ‘when’ or ‘where’ particular emphasis, put it at the front of the sentence. Consider the difference between:
The light flickered on and off, like a metronome.
Like a metronome, the light flickered on and off.
On and off, like a metronome, the light flickered.
There are other types of sentences which can have their word order changed to change the emphasis e.g. the complex ‘because type’ of sentences.
He was surprised because he had never seen a live match before.
This could be written:
Because he had never seen a live match before, he was surprised.
Identify the adverbials and ‘because types’ in Qs 1-10 move them to another part of the sentence and note the difference of meaning that has been created by the change. Which version do you think is better – and why? There will be some sentences with more than one adverbial. You might like to change the punctuation (consider the dash) and add/delete words.
- Without a doubt, she is dangerous.
- No matter how many times I tried, it still would not work.
- He was late because he was walking so slowly.
- Cheryl sighed loudly whenever Charles spoke.
- The picture was hanging on the wall, crookedly.
- Gerry came back with a brilliant reply, after a moment’s thought.
- Jamie was left all on his own, without anyone to look after him.
- She slammed the book down with a bang.
- The called across the valley.
- She has just come back with her clothes covered in mud.