Writers aim to write quotable sentences–how else will we be remembered for years to come? But you need more than perfect grammar to write that good sentence. In fact, many bad sentences have perfect grammar. What else do you need? It’s time to get out your thesaurus and red pen.
Active, Not Passive
A passive sentence is when the object of an action turns into the subject of the sentence. To put it simply, the noun that is performing the action is not leading the phrase. Here’s an example:
- Passive: The book was bought by me.
- Active: I bought the book.
“Me” is hiding behind the action as if buying the book is something shameful. When “me” turns into “I,” the tone switches from shameful to proud. The active sentence is assertive because the noun takes ownership of the action. Readers also trust the active sentence’s authority, so write a good sentence with convincing honesty and confidence.
Avoid Weak Verbs
Cross out all forms of “to be” and “to have” from your sentence. If you want to write a good sentence, write in strong verbs. Here’s an example:
- Weak: I was walking up the hill OR I had walked up the hill
- Strong: I strode up the hill
Strong verbs take action, are direct, and keep the sentence active. Stronger verbs are irregular verbs that don’t take on the –ed past tense ending.
Cut the Fluff
If a word is unnecessary, delete it. If lots of words are just there to reach a required word count, scribble them all out. Wordiness clutters the page, is boring to read, and distracts readers from resonating phrases. That doesn’t mean long sentences must be shorter. Just make every word count. That’s how to write a good sentence.
Save the Best Word for Last
To write a good sentence, place the word that will evoke emotion at the end of the sentence. This builds tension for the reader and creates a climatic surprise that readers will value. Why does the reader need to continue reading your sentence if the punch word is towards the beginning?
(These sentence examples are merely starting points for writing a good sentence. I’m not proclaiming that the sentence “I bought the book” is the next epic quote.)
Look up quotes and dissect the ones with sentences that impacted you. How did they write a good sentence? What words stood out? How did they arrange the propositional phrases? Did they follow these rules?
Now try writing a good sentence. Start out by parodying the good sentences you found by switching out words, then by writing sentences needed in your own writing projects.
What are your tips to writing a good sentence? Share below!