Sharpening my clause

I’ve been reading a lot lately, some for editing, which is a great pleasure, and some for my own amazement, which can be a mixed bag of nuts.
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So let’s talk about what it is that makes reading for pleasure not a pleasure at times:  Some authors don’t understand the basic rules of how to write coherently.  I suppose that’s not a surprise to you, but I am always shocked.
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So what makes a coherent sentence? We want a subject, a verb and some words to help explain those two things. We call this a sentence.
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Sentences frequently consist of clauses. Okay, they always do, but…anyway:
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clause
klôz/
noun
  1. a unit of grammatical organization next below the sentence in rank and in traditional grammar said to consist of a subject and predicate.
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Well, that seems pretty simple–simply confusing, anyway.
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According to About Education: A clause may be either a sentence (an independent clause) or a sentence-like construction within another sentence (a dependent or subordinate clause).
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Subordinate Clause definition: A group of words that has both a subject and a verb but (unlike an independent clause) cannot stand alone as a sentence. Also known as a dependent clause. Contrast with coordinate clause.
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Example:
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
(John F. Kennedy)
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Mostly I find subordinate clauses cropping up in conversation–dialogue–when I look at my own writing. These “grammatical juniors” are like any other form of seasoning in our writing and must be used consciously and sparingly. When we write with too many subordinate clauses, we separate the reader from the narrative.
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If you go on a cruise that consists exclusively of drinking, dancing, and partying, I shall worry.
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Well, I won’t really worry, but I shall be jealous.
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In genre fiction, which is what I write, readers do not want to be held away from the story by too many words. They want to be immersed in the tale, living it with the characters. One way we do this by providing balance in how we phrase our sentences, using a variety of sentence structures. We use complex sentences, consisting of:
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Fun-Fruit-Skewers-21. a simple clause 
I went to the grocery store.  (the meat of the matter)
2. a dependent clause
because I needed skewers. (technically not necessary but adds to it)
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I went to the grocery store because I needed skewers.  
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Who was I going to skewer? I don’t know, but I at least I had the right tool for the job.
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We can set the clause off with commas:
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The lake, its surface calm and black with deceptive serenity, called to me.
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The lake called to me is the meat of this sentence, the clause describing it is technically not necessary, but without that clause the sentence is flat.
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An excellent FREE and entertaining resource for writers who want to get a grip on clauses, commas, and all that conjunction stuff is:
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You might want to check it out, it costs nothing and is really easy to understand.
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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Sharpening my clause

  1. Excellent, and of course a variety of the above makes a lovely word feast.

    Like

  2. Ironically, that is also today’s lesson in my Composition I classes. I shall refer them to your blog and go for an iced latte now!

    Like

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