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    Pick a Sentence, Any Sentence

    Regina Harvey Icon

    Did you know there are only three sentences in the English language? In any language, really. Okay, maybe there are five, but really that’s just splitting hairs.

    What am I talking about? The nitty girtty. The down and dirty.

    Okay, the really nerdy.

    Yep, that’s right - I’m talking about syntax.

    Ugh, yes?

    No, actually, pretty darn cool, if you get right down to it. And it’s true. There are only three sentences.

    They are:

    1) The woman screamed.

    2) The woman was dead.

    3) The police dredged the lake.

    (There’s also: 4) My man stole me a diamond and 5) The girl got taken hostage. but some say they don’t count.)

    Is everyone having flashbacks to second grade yet? Wait, before you click away, just remember this:

    80% of your writing should be sentence #3. That’s subject, verb, direct object, my dears. If your writing is flagging, has no oomph, lacks pizazz, check your sentence structure. Chances are, you’re at something less than 80% of Sentence #3.

    Really. Try it and see.

    Now, to win a really dorky prize (a used copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and a few of my own terribly witty contributions to their examples), just do the following - tell us all what the structure of each of the other sentences I mentioned is - sentences 1, 2, 4 and 5. I’ll randomly choose from the correct answers (if there are that many) and mail that gem off to the lucky syntactition!

    3 Responses to “Pick a Sentence, Any Sentence”

    1. Well, I’m going to have to go back under some rust, dust and other corruption about 55 years, but here’s what I think:

      1 - Subject, verb (past tense)
      2 - subject, verb, adjective (past tense, adjective reflective of subject’s state of being [or not])
      4 - Subject, verb, indirect object, direct object (past tense)
      5 - this is tricky - first, it’s passive voice, then should be seen as subject (The girl) verb (got taken / was taken; past tense) implied as a hostage (is hostage a noun in apposition? I disremember….)

      by Bob on June 5th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    2. Hey Bob - good try, very close, but no Strunk and White for you. (Hint for anyone else who wants to try: Bob gets an A+ on #1 and #4!)

      I’ll leave this up for a bit longer, then come back with the answers - I’m sure you’re all dying to know.

      by Regina Harvey on June 6th, 2008 at 8:36 am

    3. Sorry Regina, I swear the only reason I can write at all is all the reading I did. I think # 3 was the only one I could have named without help but you already gave it to us.

      My only theory is that someone else was taking over my body in 2nd grade and that personality isn’t intergrated yet. Or I have a really bad memory.

      by Lynn on June 6th, 2008 at 7:45 pm

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