1. WritingNoob
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    WritingNoob Member

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    What is a sentence supposed to do?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by WritingNoob, Feb 11, 2010.

    hey all, i guess this is something simple for everyone here, but i came across this in the book i'm reading right now.

    “What a sentence says is:
    • what that person or thing does (active voice)
    • what they are (linking or defining sentence) or
    • what happens to them (passive voice)”

    does it help to remember what a sentence is supposed to do before actually putting pen to paper?

    thanks
     
  2. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I don't know what context this comes from really, or in what context you ask your question. If your question is if this short bullet list going to be the key for all your writing, I'm pretty sure it won't be.

    It's certainly helpful to know that a sentence is supposed to do something before putting pen to paper, and it's good to know if each sentence has actually accomplished what you meant for it to. It's good to know a grammatically correct sentence needs some kind of structure that changes depending upon what kind of sentence it is. But I'm sure you realize a sentence can be other things--like your own question, for example. Or an exclamation of some kind. Your bullet list is about declarative sentences, and it's certainly helpful to know all these things, although there's no need to "remember them" before you start to write. I'm rarely conscious of any of that--at least not until I start to fix mistakes and so forth.

    So, I don't know if this excerpt is useful to you or not. I'd guess (and hope) the entire book you're reading has a larger scope that ought to help you write or mprove your writing (to whatever degree you understand it).
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A sentence conveys a single idea. That's the important thing to remember. Too often, new writers chain an entire scene in one massively compound sentence, under the mistaken belief the marathon sentence is better than several simple ones.

    The guidelines you quote are an attempt to enumerate cases that foillow this principle. I find the list overly simplistic and misleading.

    Each sentence should say one thing, and say it clearly. Sometimes that one thing may require some elaboration, such as my third sentence of this post. But don't overload your sentences. Don't compound a sentence unless it sharpens the focus on what the sentence says.
     
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  4. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Cog gave good advice, especially about compounding sentences. I try to never use "and" to compound two sentences, but only to compound predicates or subjects.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    cog has it nailed...
     
  6. Andrew Davis
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    Andrew Davis New Member

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    A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought using a subject and a predicate. The predicate is an expression that modifies the subject. The predicate must contain a verb. A sentence makes a statement about a person, place, or thing.

    As to your question, "does it help to remember what a sentence is supposed to do before actually putting pen to paper," yes, it does. Also, I think anyone who aspires to be a writer should know the answer to the first question before they actually put pen to paper.
     

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