Writing Secrets - Sentence Harmony

Posted by [email protected] on March 24, 2014 at 5:40 AM

England's greatest bard, William Shakespeare, did not always stick to the rules of grammar.

Take for example one of his well known lines from Hamlet. It should have been written to be or not being - that is the question? Doesn't have the same ring about it really, does it?

The version of the sentence he used is an axample of sentence harmony. A good sensence should also be an harmonious sentence.

Just imagine that you are writing about the month of November in your novel about Manchester. You want to convey that it is a month of bad weather in order to set an atmosphere for the next act.

November in Manchester is a month of fog, rain and snowing.

It grates a bit doesn't it? That is beacuse it is not harmonious. What is inharmonious about it? It uses two nouns and a participle, that's what. To create a harmonious sentence, all of the elements should be in agreement. In this case, 3 nouns or 3 participles, but not a mixture, that really doesn't work. In this case, it would only really work with nouns as fogging does not refer to the weather but something that happens to film, glasses, windscreens and other such objects. So your harmonious sentence becomes:

November in Manchester is usually a month of fog, rain and snow.

It is not just nouns and particples that can destroy your harmonious sentence. Phrases need to match too.When proofreading your own writing, it is easy to overlook disharmony, especially with phrases as we often use them in speech.

Poor grammar in a manuscript is like having BO, even your friends won't tell you!

So what is wrong with that? It sounds OK. Nope!

Poor grammar and having BO is a mis-match. You need to remove the word 'having' from in front of BO or add something like 'using' or 'employing' at the very start of the sentence. Then your sentence is back in harmony.

The Final Word

As with Shakespeare, sometimes it is worth throwing in a non-harmonious sentence or two every now and then. They can make your writing more interesting by providing some discord. When your manuscript about life in Manchester is completed, it is best to have it proofread by someone who looks at the style too. A fresh pair of eyes with no vested interest in the writing can spot sentence harmony and offer suggestions as to whether it should be corrected or left as it is.

Categories: Grammar, Style

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