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  1. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Sentence usage.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OJB, Jun 15, 2017.

    I've been doing some research and I've been struggling to find an answer to a question I have. There are four types of sentences: Simple, Compound, complex, and compound-complex.

    My question is, 'is there a rule of thumb on what warrants the usage of each type of sentence? Or is it just a stylish approach totally dependent on the writer's own rules?"

    @Wreybies you seem like the man who would know. I've looked and looked, and I've found what elements compose each of them, but not what warrants the usage of say A Compound sentence instead of a Complex.

    -OJB.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would say that's a matter of style and what one wishes to accomplish in a given passage. So long as the syntax is correct, there are many choices and reasons for syntax.

    An example from one of my favorite books, Dhalgren (1975) by Samuel R. Delany, Published by Bantam Books, Page 01.

    All you know I know: careening astronauts and bank clerks glancing at the clock before lunch; actresses cowling at light-ringed mirrors and freight elevator operators grinding a thumbful of grease on a steel handle; student riots; know that dark women in bodegas shook their heads last week because in six months prices have risen outlandishly; how coffee tastes after you've held it in your mouth, cold, a whole minute.

    A whole minute he squatted, pebbles clutched with his left foot (the bare one), listening to his breath sound tumble down the ledges.

    Beyond a leafy arras, reflected moonlight flittered.

    He rubbed his palms against denim. Where he was, was still. Somewhere else, wind whined.

    Notice the unmistakably unusual syntax choices Delany makes. They are grammatically correct, though arguable as to being idiomatic. The first paragraph gives a sense of zipping along, pause to ponder, zip along, pause to ponder...

    ...how coffee tastes after you've held it in your mouth, cold, a whole minute.

    See how cold is an interruption of syntax. It would almost seem to be a dangling modifier, as if it is meant to modify the verb hold and not the noun coffee. You are to question its intent.

    ...A whole minute he squatted, pebbles clutched with his left foot (the bare one), listening to his breath sound tumble down the ledges.

    The flipped syntax of the first clause and the strange use of breath sound as a noun phrase where anyone else would have written sounds of his breath or something to that effect.

    ...Where he was, was still. Somewhere else, wind whined.

    Who speaks this way? No one. Yet notice the beautiful economy of word.



    It's all very purposeful, very carefully chosen and deliberate.
     
    Fernando.C and OJB like this.
  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Thank you Wreybies,

    This was a great example, and I love the wordplay he uses. I've been discovering my own 'rules' in terms of syntax lately, but I was curious if there was any grammatic reasons behind using one sentence type vs another; I am glad to hear it is a stylistic choice. I'll also have to check out this book sometime.

    -OJB
     

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