"The Principles of Coordination and Subordination"
by Johnie H. Scott, Assistant Professor
Coordination: linking together words, groups of words (clauses), or sentences of equal type and importance, to put energy into writing. Coordinating Conjunctions: and, or, nor, for, but, so, yet, either/or, and neither/nor.
Two principles to keep in mind:
By combining words and groups of words, you avoid repetition that steals energy from what you write; and By combining whole sentences, you reveal the relationships between the thoughts.
Example: Over the past decade many African American students have chosen to complete their formal education at Southern colleges and now in the city of Atlanta there is a major educational center built expressly to accomodate this upsurge of interest in the New South. (Two main clauses are given equal emphasis and connected by the coordinating conjunction and )
Subordination: clearly empashizes which words, groups of words (clauses), or sentences are the most important in the writing.
Subordinate Conjunctions: Takes into account five (5) factors --
(1) Time: when, after, as soon as, whenever, while, before;
(2) Place: where, wherever;
(3) Cause: because, since, in order that, so that;
(4) Contrast/Concession: although, as if, though, while; and
(5) Condition: if, unless, provided, since,as long as.
Example: Because CSUN is located in the San Fernando Valley, the university has become very attractive to students living in the inner city who want to stay close to home and yet not face the pressures of city life. (Dependent clause introduced by the subordinating conjunction because; independent or main clause begins with the university)
Caveat: One wants to avoid faulty or excessive coordination.
Faulty coordination: gives equal emphasis to unequal or unrelated clauses.
Example: The African American playwright August Wilson has won two Pulitzer Prizes for drama, and he now lives in Seattle, Washington.
The clause he now lives in Seattle, Washington has little or no connection to The African American playwright August Wilson has won two Pulitzer Prizes for drama. Therefore, the clauses should not be coordinated. But you, writer, may want to include this information in the paragraph because it is interesting and perhaps even important, even though it does not pertain directly to the main idea of the paragraph. Placing he now lives in Seattle, Washington might detract from the paragraph's unity.
We can revise faulty coordination by putting part of the sentence in a dependent clause, modifying phrase, or appositive phrase (an appositive is a noun or pronoun -- often with modifiers -- placed near another noun or pronoun to explain, describe, or identify it).
CSUN's Square, a hangout for its African American student community, has been quiet of late. (A hangout for its African American student community describes CSUN's Square); or
My sister Tiyifa lives in Colorado Springs. (Tiyifa identifies sister )
Typically, an appositive follows the word it refers to, but it may also precede the word:
A very inspirational tale of courage and honor, Glory is based on actual accounts of the all-black 54th Regiment during the American Civil War. (A very inspirational tale of courage and honor describes Glory)
Resuming with means of correcting faulty or excessive coordination, we note the following examples:
The African American playwright August Wilson, who now lives in Seattle, Washington, has won two Pulitzer Prizes for drama. (Dependent Clause)
The African American playwright August Wilson, now Seattle-based, has won two Pultizer Prizes for drama (modifying phrase)
The African American August Wilson, a Seattle playwright, has won two Pulitzer Prizes for drama (An appositive phrase).
We can go further by noting that when a single sentence contains more than one clause, the clauses may be given equal or unequal emphasis. Clauses given equal emphasis in one sentence are coordinate and should be connected by a cooordinating word or punctuation. Clauses given less emphasis in a sentence are dependent, or subordinate, and should be introduced by a subordinating word (conjunction).
Rules to Remember Concerning Faulty Subordination: There are three (3) rules to keep in mind with respect to faulty or excessive subordination in writing:
Faulty subordination occurs when the more important clause is placed in a subordinate position in the sentence or when the expected relation between clauses is reversed.
Example: Japanese-made cars are popular with American consumers although their import poses at least a short-term threat to the livelihood of some American workers (In an essay or composition about he problems of the American worker this sentence would take attention away from the worker and incorrectly emphasize Japanese-made cars.)
Correct faulty subordination by changing the position of the subordinating word or phrase;
Example: Although Japanese-made cars are popular with American consumers, their import poses at least a short-term threat to the livelihood of some American workers.
Keep in mind that excessive subordination occurs when a sentence contains a series of cluses, each subordinate to an earlier one. To correct excessive subordination, break the sentence into two or more sentences or change some of the dependent clauses to modifying phrases or appositives.
Example: LaTosha Robinson, who was a San Francisco-native who lived in the University Park Apartments, enjoyed those special moments when a group of students who also came from Northern California visited her dorm, which was lonely for most of the school year.
This sentence is very confusing for the reader. The writer seems to have added information as it came to mind. To correct excessive subordination, note the following:
LaTosha Robinson, a San Francisco-native, lived in the University Park Apartments. Because her dorm was lonely most of the school year, she enjoyed those special moments when a group of students who also were from Northern California would visit.
One dependent clause, who was a San Francisco-native, has been changed to an appositive. A second dependent clause, who lived in the University Park Apartments, is now the predicate of the first sentence. These changes make the sentence more direct. The subordinator of the third dependent clause has been changed from which (identification) to because (cause) to show clearly the connection between the loneliness of the dormitory and LaTosha's enjoyment of those special visits.