How do I write a perfect sentence?
“I often get caught up with words and sometimes get confused especially if the sentence needs to sound technically correct. Is there any method or exercise I can do to work on this?”
A recent query from one of my students pushed me to think hard and write this article. Directly or indirectly, I get this query from many new writers. I teach them effective principles of writing such as brevity, clarity, simplicity, and elegance but when it comes to starting a sentence afresh, they can get confused even after knowing the best rules. The application of principles is better understood once a sentence is already written and then, you would be able to tell if the principles have been used wisely or not.
But how to ensure that they are followed while you are writing a sentence? It is simple! Have a complete clarity about what you are going to write in your mind. But How?
Here is what you can do –
- Get rid of the barriers that keep you from getting clear in your mind.
What are these barriers?
The biggest barrier is ‘ the tendency to think about words’. Remember, writing is not about playing with words but with thoughts. So, if you are thinking about words, you are moving your focus away from your thoughts or ideas.
Let us take an example. Read the sentence below:
The approach in designing a new phone is to improvise perfection.
Where is the focus? What is the idea? Did the writer try to accommodate the words like designing, improvisation, and perfection. Or was he focused on the core idea?
‘Barrier of Perfection’ – If you want to write a perfect sentence even before you start writing, stop thinking! Think, not of a perfect sentence but of a perfect idea, and then use the simplest way to communicate it.
Let us take another example.
If you are an early riser, what is the idea behind this habit? You may get up early for a number of reasons like –
- You have to reach office on time
- You are health conscious and you believe that early rising can help
- You feel fresh when you get up early
- You are habitual
Let us pick one idea that you may want to promote in your sentence. Now, do not think about sentence construction or even words but just write down the sentence as it comes to your mind.
Your Sentence: If you get up early, it can help you maintain good health
Now, you may think that this sentence appears so raw and so unlikely of a writer’s work. So, go to next step!
- Once you have poured down your basic thought on paper or screen, start thinking of principles.
Brevity: use less words – Can you?
Hint: delete words that are not needed or rephrase the sentence
Early to rise can help maintain good health.
Simplicity: Understand in single read – Can you?
Hint: Use easy words
Getting up early can keep you healthy.
Clarity: Make the idea clear – Can you?
Hint: Add more information to explain your point
Getting up early can keep you healthy as it has many benefits like…
Elegance: Make the sentence look beautiful – Can you?
Hint: Change the format or content to make it more conversational
Did you know that rising early can improve the quality of your sleep and enhance your productivity?
Remember, writing is not the game of vocabulary but of thoughts. If you want to play a vocabulary game, try crosswords.
If your thoughts are clear in your head, your sentence will be clear in your reader’s head.
Try this exercise:
Close your eyes and observe your thoughts. What is the first thought that is coming to your mind. Do not think much and just write that thought down on a piece of paper. Now close your eyes again and repeat the same activity. Do it again!
3 times, 3 thoughts – Are they connected? No!
Now try connecting them in the most simplistic way without thinking about sentence construction or word usage.
How will this exercise help?
- It will take away the core barriers and would push you to get into thinking mode
- It will push you hard to use your creativity
- It will help you make the best use of writing principles
Note: At first, you may go blank when you close your eyes, but have patience, and you will have a wonderful thought striking your brain soon.