Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

Variety

1. All sentences do not have to begin with a subject and verb. You can place an adverb modifier at the beginning.

One way:

I often think of the twin towers when I visit downtown Manhattan.

Another way:

Often, when I visit downtown Manhattan, I think of the twin towers.

manhattan-batteryparkcity.jpg

One way:

The actress Ellen Barkin will eventually unload the $1 million, 15-carat diamond ring she got while married to Revlon boss Ron Perelman.

Another way:

Eventually, the actress Ellen Barkin will unload the $1 million, 15-carat diamond ring she got while married to Revlon boss Ron Perelman.

barkin.jpg

Exercise: Turn the following sentence around:

Katie Holmes ran incognito in the New York City Marathon until hubby Tom Cruise sprang from the crowd and planted, quickly, a big wet one on the Dawson Creek star’s saliva-speckled lips.

2. Vary sentence types. Too many compound sentences in a row—or too many of any sentence type—can be monotonous.

The following paragraph is made up of a simple sentence, a compound sentence, a complex sentence, and a compound-complex sentence.

Simple sentence.

Frequently, Robert Violante thinks of the day he was shot by David Berkowitz.

Compound Sentence

He was sitting in a car with Stacy Moskowitz, and he didn’t see the Son of Sam killer approaching.

Complex Sentence

Although Moskowitz was shot in the head and died the next day, Violante survived.

Compound-Complex Sentence:

Whenever Violente thinks of what happened to him and Stacy on July 31, 1977, he gets mad, and he hopes that Berkowitz never gets paroled.

Exercise: Take the following simple sentence and turn it into a compound sentence, a complex sentence, and a compound-complex sentence:

The film American Gangster glorifies drug kingpin Frank Lucas.

3. Invert Sentences. You don’t always have to follow the subject-verb-object order.

Subject-verb-object:

Rebekah Johnson pumped  Gannas commune leader Jeff Gross with six .38-caliber bullets.

Inverted sentence:

Six .38-caliber bullets did Rebekah Johnson pump into Gannas commune leader Jeff Gross.

Subject-verb-object:

After taking LSD and staring at the sun for hours, fifteen hippies are totally blind.

Object-verb-subject

Blind are fifteen hippies after taking LSD and staring at the sun for hours.

Invert the following sentence:

I am in the money after sinking $10,000 into various real estate investment trusts.

4. Add a question or quotation.

Online dating sites are a joke. I saw this ad where the woman wrote that she was looking for an “honest” guy with a “positive outlook on life” who is into “fine dining” and “long walks on the beach at sunset” and who “knows himself.” I hate fine dining and long walks on the beach, and I don’t know myself. And, given my negative outlook on life, how the hell I am going to get her to answer my ad if I’m the least bit honest?

Exercise: Write a three-sentence paragraph that ends with a question.

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Emphasize Key Ideas. Experiment with techniques for emphasis

End sentences with kickers. You can withhold the important information until the final word.

With a great deal of kindness and hospitality, “Fat” Nick Minucci welcomed Glenn Moore to Brooklyn with a baseball bat to the head.

Periodic sentences

The periodic sentence creates emphasis by piling modifiers and descriptions before the main subject and verb:

Before she wrecked Christie Brinkley’s marriage, before she began a torrid affair with Brinkley’s philandering hubby Peter Cook, before Cook lured her from a dead- end toy store job to work in his architectural firm at double the salary, even before the toy gig, teen stunner Diana Bianchi wanted to be a pop singer.

bianchi_fox_2.jpg

Cumulative sentences begin with the subject and verb, then add modifiers:

Ex-supermodel Christie Brinkley discovered her husband was having a fling with a teenager who worked in his firm, a short walk from her home in the Hamptons, a place accustomed to spectacular affairs, but rarely one that generates this many juicy headlines, unless you take into account Brinkley’s divorce from singer Billy Joel.

Parallel structure for emphasis

Hardly had Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdock’s current wife, left China and started sleeping with married executive Jake Cherry, before she left Cherry and started sleeping with another man.

Use punctuation for emphasis

Use a dash or a colon for emphasis.

My trainer says if I spend two hours a day on the treadmill, and if I give up pasta—that is, if I torture myself—I will lose forty pounds.

At a corner table in Café Reggio, I anxiously awaited the arrival of my blind date: she was 300 pounds.

Use Active Verbs

Replace “be” verbs with verbs that are more dynamic.

Not so good:

Angel Quinones is in jail for killing his fiancée’s parents.

Better:

Yesterday, police arrested Angel Quinones for killing his fiancée’s parents.

Not so good:

Last week, the bodies of Cecelia and Carlos Ruiz were in their apartment, and their daughter’s fiancé Angel Quinones was a suspect.

Better:

Last week, police discovered the bodies of Cecelia and Carlos Ruiz in their apartment. They immediately suspected Angel Quinones, the dead couple’s future son-in-law.

Fix:

Quinones was a suspect because he was allegedly in the Ruiz’s apartment the night before and was not at work the next day.

Choose subjects that names a person or a thing doing action

Bad:

The next day, the suspect turned himself in at the local precinct and was charged with two counts of murder.

Better:

The next day, Quinones turned himself in at the 7th Precinct and was charged with two counts of murder.

Bad:

The victims had been brutally beaten, and police think the suspect may have used a weapon to bludgeon them before choking them.

Better:

The couple had been brutally beaten, and police think that Quinones may have used a cooking pot to bludgeon them before choking them.

Fix:
Insert the following in the appropriate places: “Amber Sadiq,” “wrongful death.”

The family of an 8 year old girl who was killed by a runaway school bus in May, will file a lawsuit against the city.

Avoid passive constructions.
Use active verbs whenever appropriate.

Poor:

A sixth straight Mustard Belt was won by Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi after 53.75 hot dogs were chowed down. Kobayashi was called the “Bun-Zai” Warrior by the New York Post while it was reported by the Daily News the second place finish of hot dog scarfer, American Joey Chestnut who ate 52 hot dogs, was blamed on the Coney Island humidity

Better:

Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi won his sixth straight Mustard Belt, after chowing down 53.75 hot dogs. The New York Post called Kobayashi the “Bun-Zai Warrior” while the Daily News reports that second place hot dog scarfer, American Joey Chestnut, who ate 52 hot dogs, blamed the Coney Island humidity on falling back.

the-tsunami.jpg

Fix:

1. Enron was built by Ken Lay into a high-profile, widely admired company, the seventh-largest publicly traded in the country. But Enron collapsed after it was revealed by auditors that the company’s finances were based on a web of fraudulent partnerships and schemes.

2. As we walked around the gallery, was treated politely by Brad and his girlfriend, but I was sure that I was secretly hated by them and that was being given this tour because it was hoped by them to see me separated from my money.

Wordiness and Economy

Same thought, different words

Bad:

McDonald’s new spicy premium chicken has a rich satisfying flavor and it also tastes good.

Better:

McDonald’s new spicy premium chicken has a rich, satisfying flavor.

Bad:

Anthony Kiedis, lead singer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, always poses for photos without his shirt and bare-chested.

Better:

Anthony Kiedis, lead singer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, always poses for photos without his shirt.

kiedis.jpg

Fix:

A four-year-old boy who fell from his 11th floor apartment, bounced off an awning like a trampoline, and landed on the sidewalk and concrete below.

Circumlocutions

Try to avoid the phrases the fact that and there is and the words field and character.

Bad.

Because of the fact that a woman fell from the roof of a building at 49 East 192nd Street, she died from injuries to her head and torso.

Better.

A woman who fell from the roof of a building at 49 East 192nd Street, died from injuries to her head and torso.

Bad:

In the field of police work, he excels at solving crimes of a homicidal character.

Better:

The police officer excels at solving homicides.

Bad:

I believe there is someone in Brooklyn who is as beautiful as Angelina Jolie, but because of the fact that I am short, fat, bald and broke, will never date me.

Better:

I believe someone in Brooklyn is as beautiful as Angelina Jolie, but because I am short, fat, bald and broke, she will never date me.

Overweight Constructions
Sometimes it’s better to use verbals rather than finite verbs.

(Two definitions of a verbal: (a) of, pertaining to, or derived from a verb. used in a sentence as or like a verb, as participles and infinitives. (b) a word, particularly a noun or adjective, derived from a verb.

Examples:
Dumped wives go crazy insane when they discover your hotel room charges.

My mother lives to torture me and my current girlfriend.

Bad:

The first frat boy who finishes ten whiskeys will win a bottle of Jack Daniels .

Better:

The first frat boy finishing ten whiskeys will win a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Bad:

While I was ripping off the cash register, I decided I would take a nap.

Better:

While ripping off the cash register, I decided to take a nap.

Add Needed Words

To make sentences concise, cut words. Your cuts, however, should not make the sentence ungrammatical.

Bad:

The women in the rahab program are Chinese immigrants whom we saw at the brothel or shopped at the supermarket.

Better:

The women in the rahab program are Chinese immigrants whom we saw at the brothel or who shopped at the supermarket.

Bad:

Rap diva Foxy Brown never has and never will assault a manicurist.

Better:

Rap diva Foxy Brown never has assaulted and never will assault a manicurist.

Fix:

German-born stunner Heidi Klum believes and lives by the laws of fashion.