1. WritaBurst
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    WritaBurst Member

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    Declarative Sentences?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by WritaBurst, Aug 21, 2008.

    I have been guilty of having too many declarative sentences. What are your thoughts on this? What is a good way to avoid this?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I'm a huge fan of simple declarative sentences myself. Most writers starting out have a tendency to try to fit 3 or 4 unrelated clauses in mostg sentences. But if you find there are so many that your writing seems choppy, look for passages that should be flowing at a slower pace. Sentences where the characters are travelling, or waiting, or sitting quietly are good candidates. Indullge in describing the surroundings the characters notice while they are passing time, and use compound sentences for parts of the description. Just don't overdo it.

    Have you considered a few well-placed rhetorical questions?

    I wonder, though, if the problem you are having is too many declarative sentences at all. It's a pretty unusual problem.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I can see how it can happen. I often have to go back and reword sentences because I've given practicely every sentence in a paragraph the same syntactic structure. Saulty pointed this out to me in something I posted recently and he was dead on.

    What I'm doing to fix this issue is simply to take each sentence of the given paragraph and list them one under the last. It became very easy to see how each of the sentences were overly alike when I did that.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    "....too many declarative sentences..."

    This reminds me of the old joke, "Doctor, it only hurts when I do this. What should I do?"

    Answer, "Stop doing that."

    Sounds like pretty good advice for using too many declarative sentences in your writing. LOL

    Now, if you're asking for alternatives to the declarative sentence, there are good alternatives as outlined by Cog.

    I once read an interesting article that compared the use of declarative, imperative and interrogative sentences in communications. I came away from the information with the impression that "mood" was the principle difference in impact from each statement's format. Declarative was described as the purveyor of "force", since its impact derives from fact.

    "The house is red with white shutters. The paint peeled in many places."

    On the other hand, non-declarative sentences produce differences in "mood" when taken in context of the story.

    "Start, damn you! Why do you do this to me?" (referring to her old car)

    This same scene could have been described using declarative sentences, but it is more powerful when presented in imperative and interrogative form. Of course, there is always overlap in effect, but the gist of the article was that balance between declarative and non-declarative sentences made for the best reading. Mood versus force.

    (BTW - a dead give-away of the number of declarative sentences is the number that begin with either definite or indefinite articles "the", "a" and "an". I would also add "this" and "that" to the list of declarative sentence give-aways, as they are commonly overused in this fashion.)
     
  5. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    I don't really notice things like a big number of declarative sentences. Since I have no problem with that, I can't really contribute. :D
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see how any of us can give you a valid answer without seeing a sample... why don't you post an excerpt that you think shows what you're worried about?
     
  7. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    Please, do. I'm actually curious about how declarative sentences can be a problem, because I assumed declarative was the default :eek:

    Do you mean you "tell" more than "show"?
    Or dialogue becomes an info dump when nobody seems to raise their voice or ask questions?
    ...something like that?
     
  8. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Declarative sentences are good.

    Not many writers know how to do.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    These questions in the last couple posts are why I wondered whether declarative sentences were the real problem. I assumed from the initial post that the originator probably meant too many simple declarative sentense - subject, verb, objects, with single-word modifiers sprikled within.

    Variety of wxpression is important. But as Eyez said, many aspiring writers have trouble with the simkple declarative sentence. It seems more "literary" to build a sentence resembling a mansion, with sprawling wings, balconies, and towers.

    Simple declarative sentences deliver punch. They are even more powerful when surrounded by "softer", more rolling prose, so they benefit from the contrast. Na perhaps the originator is having trouble establishing that context.

    But that doesn't sound like what he asked, at least not to me. More likely, it is like trying to explain an engine noise to a mechanic - you describe what it sounds like to you, but when the mechanic listens to the actual engine, she recognizes the symptom as something else entirely.
     
  10. WritaBurst
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    WritaBurst Member

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    Wow, after reading your responses maybe I don't have as big as problem as I thought. Maybe I just need to work on my sentences a bit. Alright, here is a very short story. Look at the fourth paragraph especially. This is a sample of what I'm trying to explain, which I may not be explaining correctly. Let me know what you think.

    --------------------------------------------

    A long time ago, an evil sorcerer known as Skarlock became the ruler of the Kingdom of Naab. He treated the people of the kingdom like slaves and constructed laws to hoard gold. His magic was too powerful for anyone to remove him from his throne. As if that weren't enough, he used a pet bone dragon named Thunder to strike fear into the people.

    The local blacksmith, who's name was Gyles Gilbert, refused to give up the thought of removing Skarlock from the kingdom. He manufactured a mace to be used against the sorcerer, but a mace by itself would not be able to defeat him. So he devised a plan to have the mace enchanted by Skarlock himself. Gyles inlisted the services of the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, Constance Osgood. She seduced the sorcerer and succeeded in having him enchant the mace.

    Gyles tried to hire a knight to use the mace against Skarlock, but none would accept the assignment. So Gyles decided to do it himself. He attracted the attention of the sorcerer by peddling his iron wares. While Skarlock was browsing the assortment of metal goods, Gyles came at him with the mace. The sorcerer's attention was not to be swayed. He realized Gyles was swinging the mace towards him and stopped him immediately holding him in suspended animation. He then placed a curse on Gyles and magically combined him with his bone dragon. He named the creature Thunder Bone. The sorcerer threw the mace into his treasure room and manipulated the mind of his new creation to always guard the room.

    Through the years, many would fight Thunder Bone in hope of obtaining the treasures inside, but all were defeated by the creature. Finally, a mysterious witch came to the doors of the room. She cleansed the mind of Thunder Bone. He willingly let her pass through the doors. The only thing he asked in return was to keep the magical mace that was inside. She agreed to the offer. Thunder Bone flew straight to the throne room of the castle where Skarlock resided. The sorcerer sent forth all of his magical energy, but Thunder Bone concentrated and held the mace in front of him. The mace absorbed the energy with ease. Then with one swipe of the mace, Skarlock's reign was over.

    Thunder Bone's legacy was never forgotten. In recent years, the great city of New Providence has been in jeopardy from a rise in super villain activity. Four magical beings gathered to bring Thunder Bone into present day Earth to help save the city. They were richly successful and now have Thunder Bone to help them gain back their wavering city from the gangs of evil beings.
     
  11. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    As somebody who just writes intuitively, without really knowing what the technical names for all the things I do in my writing are, I think it'd be good in posts like this if somebody would provide a definition and examples of what the main issue (declarative sentences) is!

    Even though writers know how to use certain things, they might not know what those things are called. I'd learn a lot more from this thread if I knew what's even being talked about. :/ NaCl's post came closest but I'm still fuzzy.

    Not that I'm going to lose sleep over it, but it might come in handy in future such posts.
     
  12. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    Cogito I leave this to you. I hate to say it but I passed english with A's but lost every argument with a teacher I had. I can not even tell you the parts of a sentence.

    If I take it at face value declaritive sentence seems to mean a sentence that declares something. I would like a deeper meaning though if there is one.
     
  13. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Its very simple:

    Declarative sentences make a statement of fact. i.e. - in the context of stories, they carry the forcefulness associated with a fact.

    Non-declarative sentences - interrogative (asking a question) and imperative (making a demand) - provide a voice that sets "mood" more than stating any direct fact.

    As Cog says, sometimes the most powerful sentences are simple, declarative statements that convey both force and mood by their very simplicity.

    The problem for a writer is reader boredom. If paragraph after paragraph follows the same theme, then the reader quickly becomes fatigued with the style, and in fact, a style that began with great impact begins to loose its effectiveness.

    Here are some examples:

    Declarative - The voices persisted. She obeyed and released her grip on the infant. She watched dispassionately as her child fell to the street far below. (these sentences are simple and declarative. They convey great impact about a woman who is deeply psychotic and the results of her illness.)

    Interrogative - "What the are you going to do about it?" (Newly pregnant teenage girl seeking emotional support from her boyfriend)

    Responsive interrogative - "Weren't you on the pill? Why did you let this happen? Whatta you want from me?" (Boyfriend's reaction sets a "mood" of blame as he makes an effort to distance himself from responsibility)

    This pregnancy scene could easily have been described using declarative (statement of fact) sentences but using the interrogative approach does a better job of conveying "mood" in the story.

    Imperative (demand) - "Bullsh*t! You broke it, you bought it!" (Again, notice how such a statement sets "mood" for a story.)


    There is not a single "best" way to tell a story. Balance between these three methods of writing provides the reader with better flow and less reading fatigue. These writing choices should also be used in a natural way (as Tehuti says, "intuitively") where they do the best job of telling the story. It's not important to remember the specific labels thrown out above, just the message about effective use of "statements of fact", carefully placed "questions" and appropriate insertion of "demands".
     

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