Sentence variety with adjectives & other constituent parts

In the previous post on sentence variety with adverbial modifiers, we saw how switching up word order and sentence patterns can create both emphasis and more interesting writing. There were quite a number of devices that can be used with adverbial modifiers because they include a single adverb, an adverb phrase, and an adverb clause and they are the most moveable modifiers, the one constituent part that can move around easily while retaining its function.

Other constituent parts of sentences are also moveable at times, which we will explore in this post: simple adjectives, direct objects, subject complements, as well as with adjective and noun clauses.

We have discussed how placing the adverbial modifier at the start of a sentence creates suspense.  In addition, we saw how one adverbial clause device can take that clause at the beginning of a sentence and reduce the adverb clause to a single adjective:

begin with adjective

in place of Although

Although it is cheap, the car is no bargain.

Cheap as it is, the car is no bargain.

Moreover, when a word or word group is not in its usual position, it gives emphasis to it and the ideas it expresses, and thus adjectives can also be moved for emphasis.

Usually adjectives come right before the nouns or pronouns they modify. By placing the adjective right after the noun or pronoun, it gives them greater emphasis:

His strong, calloused hands were no strangers to work.

His hands, strong, calloused, were no strangers to work.

Switching the usual order of sentence patterns, such as action verbs and linking verbs, can also emphasize the ideas in their components. Here is an example of the action verb pattern Subject – Verb – Direct Object:

Terry would not accept this money.

This money Terry would not accept.

The direct object this money has been shifted to the beginning of the sentence.

In addition, sentence patterns with linking verbs, Subject – Verb – Subject Complement, can be varied by placing the subject complement (a hero) first:

Jackie Robinson was certainly a hero.

A hero Jackie Robinson certainly was.

Adjective clauses also have useful devices to vary sentence patterns and emphasis. There is a special type of adjective clause which is helpful when you want to sate a fact about only a part or a number of a larger group. Consider this sentence:

Gloria has three sisters, one of whom is a nurse.

These special adjective clauses begin with the following words:

one of which, one of whom

several of which, several of whom

two of which, two of whom

most of which, most of whom

none of which, none of whom

all of which, all of whom

few of which, few of whom

There is a similar type of adjective clause in which a noun precedes the words of which or of whom; for example, the price of which, the result of which; the purpose of which.

While these are useful devices for variety, ordinarily, using the relative pronoun whose creates a smoother sentence than using the construction of which. It also requires fewer words. Contrast the two sentences below.

I read a novel the ending of which is disappointing. (10 words)

I read a novel whose ending is disappointing. (8 words)

Noun clauses beginning with the word that have a couple devices for varying word order and emphasis. For instance, when a noun cause is use as a subject, it begins the sentence, but it can sound a bit formal, even still for everyday speech.

That I had saved the receipt was fortunate.

To make the sentence less formal, we can move the noun clause to the end of the sentence, but because it occupied the subject position, we need to fill the space with the introductory word it:

[It] was fortunate that I had saved the receipt.

Another device is when a noun clause is used as an appositive after the construction the fact that.

This pattern is especially useful in tightening up a loose compound sentence as shown below.

I ate the stew, but that doesn’t mean that I liked it.

The fact that I ate the stew doesn’t mean that I liked it.

Sentence variety is an important tool for writers not only in making their point but also in making their writing interesting. By shifting word order, changing position, and adding or substituting words or phrases in different constructions, you can add emphasis as well as variety to your sentences. Of course, you do not want to use them all the time since your writing can come to sound stilted, artificial, or even pompous. On the other hand, you also don’t want to repeat the same sentence patterns over and over again. These devices for sentence variety are just some of the instruments for a writer’s toolkit.

(Examples adapted from English 3200)

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