4) Pay attention to syntax
What is Syntax, and what can it do for my writing?
There are zillions of words in the English language (that might possibly be an exaggeration, and the cool thing is how you can transform those words from boring old sentences into great ones just by using syntax.
At times, writing requires you to think out of the box
So really, it’s using words effectively. Playing around with syntax can help make plain sentences more interesting. Here are some examples:
“I wrote a book. I hope people will buy it.”
Now that’s just boring 😴 Let’s connect the two phrases with the conjunction (“and”). In this case, I removed the “I” from the second phrase, meaning the second phrase can’t stand independently. When this happens, no comma is necessary.
“ I wrote a book and hope people will buy it.”
Now let’s use what’s called a “dependent marker”, so phrase #1 becomes a modifier for phrase #2. Let’s also pop that “I” back in, so the second phrase is just as independent as the first.
“While I was writing my book, I hoped people would buy it.”
Just to make things even more interesting, we can insert a “nonessential phrase” and surround it with commas, BUT you have to put the comma after the conjunction (“and” in this case).
“I wrote a book, and, of course, I’m hoping people will buy it.”
Along the nonessential phrase thing, you can also insert one that modifies the first phrase. In that case, the conjunction comes after the nonessential phrase.
“I wrote a book, which was amazing to me, and I hope people will buy it.”
If you want to make that nonessential phrase stick out, like it’s something that just popped into your head, use em dashes. The conjunction comes before the dashes in this case.
“I wrote a book – which surprised the heck out of me – and I hope people will buy it.”
If you use brackets instead, it will de-emphasize it. Don’t forget the comma after the close bracket.
“I wrote a book (which surprised the heck out of me), and I hope people will buy it.”
Semi-colons can be used as well, but sparingly. For example, if we change the second phrase into something a little more interesting, we can add it to the first one.
“I wrote a book; I’m hoping when folks head into a bookstore, they’ll pick up a copy.”
Use the semi-colon again, still using a more interesting second phrase, but add an adverb or adverbial phrase after the semi-colon, followed by a comma.
“I wrote a book; naturally, I’m hoping when folks head into a bookstore, they’ll pick up a copy.”
When you are writing, or when you’ve finished writing something, read what you’ve done out loud. Are your sentences all the same length and rhythm? Do they lack a little depth and variety? Anything gets dull if it’s all the same.
Look at syntax. Take a sentence or two and play. Create something beautiful out of something plain.