Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fluid Fluency

Since Sentence Fluency is one of six traits in the Oregon Writing Benchmarks, I've thought some about mixing up sentence beginnings.

Especially in narratives, it's easy to start with "I" "I" "I."

But what are other, more interesting/sophisticated beginnings?

Okay, there are adverbs: Slowly, the ketchup oozed across the floor. But adverbs can always be replaced by a strong verb, and are distracting and often redundant.

Prepositional phrases are definitely interesting/sophisticated: After the ketchup oozed across the floor, I had to jump over the puddle. They also lend themselves to varying length. Delicious.

Participial phrases and gerunds are also yummy: Coming downstairs for dinner, I smelled spaghetti.


Participial phrases also lend themselves to funny dangling/displaced modifiers: Coming downstairs for dinner, the spaghetti smelled of garlic and basil. Since participial phrases always modify the noun closest to it, in this case, the spaghetti is coming down the stairs. Quick fix: Coming downstairs for dinner, I could smell the garlic and basil of the spaghetti.

It's important to stay true to voice when mixing up sentence fluency. But it's fun playing around and trying something new.

How about you? What are your tricks for sentence beginnings?

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