Periodic Sentences

Colorado Marsh

How does the writer effectively pull in the reader, take hold of his hand, and keep him reading? How does a writer achieve her goal of changing her reader’s thinking, of painting pictures in his mind that give pleasure, insight, and hope? The writer’s success depends largely on how she arranges her words in sentences.

In my previous post I mentioned periodic sentences. This sentence-writing technique places the most important, impactful words at the end. This arrangement is effective for two reasons: 1) The last words you read or hear are the ones you remember best. 2) When the entire sentence leads up to those final words, the reader doesn’t want to stop reading. He anticipates; his mind and emotions engage;  he wants to find out where this is leading.

In each of the following pairs of sentences, the first sentence gives you the punch words at the beginning, and the second sentence saves until last the juicy words.

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

Did he notice the teeming wildlife—snapdragons, butterflies, cottontails, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds—when he looked out across the meadow?

When he looked out across the meadow, did he notice the teeming wildlife: snapdragons, butterflies, cottontails, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds?

 

Eating is his favorite activity and snickerdoodles are his favorite food.

He says his favorite activity is eating, and he especially enjoys snickerdoodles.

 

We got big, pink snow cones and we rode the merry-go-round when Grandma took us to town.

Grandma took us to town to get big, pink snow cones and ride the merry-go-round.

 

Driving a fire truck is what I’ve always wanted to do.

All my life I’ve wanted to drive a fire truck.

 

We heard the computer keys clicking so we knew she was working in the next room.

We knew she was working in the next room because we could hear the computer keys clicking.

 

We drank our last ounce of water before we had climbed up the mountain halfway.

Halfway up the mountain we drank our last ounce of water.

 

Come to the Father when life makes no sense, and you don’t know what to do.

When life makes no sense, and you don’t know what to do, come to the Father.

 

I assume you mean “Suggested Retail Price” when you say “SRP.”

I assume “SRP” means “Suggested Retail Price.”

 

Feeling his arm around me gives me more consolation than anything else.

Nothing gives me more consolation than feeling his arm around me.

 

I’d spend a week in Paris with you if I could have anything I wanted in the whole world.

If I could have anything I wanted in the whole world, I’d spend a week in Paris with you.

 

I love you, Lord, for who you are and for all you’ve done for me.

For who you are—and for all you’ve done for me—I love you, Lord.

 

Listen with the ears of your heart when you listen.

When you listen, listen with the ears of your heart.

 

Keep an open heart when you say your prayers.

When you say your prayers, keep an open heart.

 

Are you already consciously using periodic sentences? Do you think your writing would improve if you consider each sentence with your reader in mind, and rearrange words?

  2 comments for “Periodic Sentences

  1. June 26, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Catherine,

    Thank you for the information on periodic sentences. It’s all news to me!

    The examples make it easy to see the difference in effectiveness between the two sentences.

    Appreciate it, and you. :>)

    Ellen

    Like

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