Enhance Writing Skill With Sentence Combining
These types of exercises can be especially beneficial when attempting to determine why a sentence â€“ or a paragraph â€“ isn't working. They can also enhance creativity, aid with problem-solving, and dissolve writers block.
While sentence combining exercise books are available through a variety of academic publishers and sources such as Amazon.com, in general, writers focus on their own sentences. Although exercise books can be a nice diversion â€“ even fun â€“ there is no substitute for developing the ability to hone ones own prose.
There are a variety of ways to approach sentence combining. While some writers will rearrange a sentence in their mind before editing and/or revising it, other writers will remove it from an existing paragraph and rework it separately. While being able to mentally rework a sentence is a definite skill (and often a plus), many writers need to see the sentence on the page in order to untangle or further enhance it. Writing out a troublesome sentence may also assist a writer in getting "unstuck" and moving forward to the next sentence and the next. . .
A typical sentence combining exercise would list several phrases â€“ even complete sentences â€“ from which to compose a single sentence. The seeds for ensuing sentences may also be present. While it is important to know the context â€“ what comes before this sentence, as well as what follows it â€“ for the purposes of this exercise, imagine that it is the beginning of a short story and needs to grab â€“ or hook â€“ the reader.
--There was a storm
--Old trees thrashed in the wind
--It was night and the electricity went off
--The storm blew out the electricity
--It began to rain
--Hail battered the windows
--The rain blew sideways in the wind
--I was alone
When approaching an exercise like the above, it is important to determine the subject â€“ or event â€“ at hand. Is it the storm? That the electricity went off? Who is experiencing this storm? Is this a prelude to disaster? To a life-altering event?
It's also important to choose the proverbial "best" adjectives and verbs to describe the scene, to show action, to create suspense, terror, or another mood. What is implied by the words chosen? The words not chosen? What words could be added to provide additional information?
Here are just five possible treatments â€“ or revisions.
1. Trees thrashed in the wind, knocking down electric wires. . .and then it began to rain sideways, followed by hail that battered the windows.
2. Rain came down in torrents the night when the electricity went out, the same night when the old pine tree thrashed outside in the yard until it uprooted and crashed through my bedroom window.
3. I was alone in the dark when the storm began; rain and brittle hail battered, then broke through, my bedroom window.
4. Just before dawn, I awoke to an eerie wind, to the keening of uprooted trees, the cacophony of glass splintering.
5. Yes, there was a storm that night, a storm so vicious that it uprooted the old pine tree in our front yard, but not before ripping out the electric lines, leaving us alone in a dark house with rain and hail battering our windows like an unwanted visitor.
There are dozens of possible ways to revise these sentences. While this may seem overwhelming to have so many choices, it can also be liberating. It's been said that a writer is never done; they just decide to stop â€“ and move on to the next sentence and the next, until their story is "finished". A writer can always return to what they've written â€“ and that's a definite positive.