writing, writer, notes

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. By William Strunk Jr. in Elements of Style.

Before you write an English sentence some decisions have to be made.

1. What is the single or complete thought that you are stating, describing, explaining or asking.

2. What type of sentence best matches your thought: declarative, imperative, interrogative or exclamatory.

3. Which of the six basic English sentence construction formats best suits your sentence.

1. No Verb Complement
2. Direct Object Verb Complement
3. Indirect and Direct Object Verb Complements
4. Predicate Nominative Verb Complement
5. Predicate Adjective Verb Complement
6. Direct Object and Objective Complement

For our example of English sentence writing, we will start with a basic thought.

Ross teaches.

This is a simple subject and verb sentence and states the core of my thought. This core sentence subject and verb can be added to, modified, or enhanced. We can change the subject by exchanging the noun Ross for a pronoun He.

He teaches.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding an article, adjective, demonstrative, possessive or a combination to the subject.

The older Shirley teaches.
The blonde Shirley teaches.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by changing the verb tense.

Shirley will teach. – add “will” to create a future tense
Shirley has taught. – add “has” to create a perfect tense

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding an adverb.

He teaches well.
He teaches thoroughly.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding a phrase.

Ross teaches in the college.
Ross teaches in Canada and the USA.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding a clause.

Ross was teaching when the rainstorm began.
Ross was teaching when the hockey playoff’s started.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding an object.

Shirley teaches students.
Shirley teaches adults.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding adjectives to describe the object.

Ross teaches international students.
Ross teaches international business professionals.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding phrases to describe the object.

Ross teaches international students from Asia and Europe.
Ross teaches international business professionals from large multi-national corporations.

We can modify the sentence to provide a more accurate expression of my thought by adding clauses to enhance the object.

Ross teaches international students from Asia and Europe that booked classes directly from his website.

The process of writing an English sentence is much easier when the writer starts with a basic thought and systematically uses all the English writing tools to accurately express the complete thought.

One advanced English writing skill is understanding when one thought is really two thoughts that should be expressed separately. The following is an example:

(Incorrect – Ross teaches international students that booked classes directly from his website in Canada from Asia and Europe.)

(better as two sentences) Ross teaches international students from Asia and Europe in Canada. Ross’ students booked classes directly from his website.

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