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Writing a Cleverly Crafted Sentence

Suggestion Número Uno

The sentence is an elegant invention; it communicates easily using logic, rhetoric, and grammar.  The tiniest sentence can measure one word (or less: “Wha.  . . ?”), but its length has no bounds (to date the longest has measured 469,375 words).

A well-constructed sentence is a thing of beauty.

The only way to improve one’s writing is by immersing oneself in the written language (by reading mentor texts for good examples), and by emulating good construction with practice (by copying a good sentence onto paper and substituting one’s own words onto the form).

Memorizing a myriad of grammar rules does not improve one’s writing; internalization comes only through deliberate study and use.

Since I want to learn how to construct better sentences, I search for those that pique my interest. I look for them in published writing, and I highlight them or make marginal notes. I study their form and practice them, using them in my own writing.

The next time you are reading a text, select a cleverly crafted sentence – one that you liked for its complex pattern or its use of punctuation - , and copy it vertically onto a sheet of paper (one word per line in a straight up and down column), then using that exact form and without changing its parts of speech or the punctuation marks, substitute your own text in a column next to it. (A noun for a noun, a verb for a verb, etc.) Work on your sample until each word has been substituted and your sentence flows easily and reads well. Do this several times with other mentor sentences.

The next time you work on your own manuscript, experiment with some of what you have learned. You will be surprised at the improvement in your writing, phrases, clauses, and punctuation will start doing new and wonderful things.


  1. You have given me a great idea. From now on, you are my mentor!


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