Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sentence Combining 02

Question: What is the value of sentence combining exercises?

Answer: Sentence combining exercises enable you to experiment with sentence structure, to play with different types of structures within the sentence and to develop smooth expression that flows from beginning to end of a paragraph. Practicing some sentence combining exercises when you don’t feel like writing will start you on your way. When you are revising your own work, note whether combining some sentences will improve your expression.

Yesterday, I combined some kernel sentences from a quote by JFK.

Kernel sentences: There are many Americans. They have lost their way. They have lost their will. They have lost their sense of history. They have lost their sense of purpose.

Combined: Many Americans have lost their way, their will, their purpose and their sense of history.

Combined: Having lost their way and will, many Americans no longer have an historic sense of purpose.

Combined: With their will and way lost, many Americans no longer have a sense of purpose from history.

Combined: Many Americans have lost their way, have lost their will, have lost their sense of history and have lost their purpose.

Combined: Because many Americans have lost their way and will, they have also lost their sense of history and of purpose.

Here is JFK’s original quote: “Too many Americans have lost their way, their will, and their sense of historic purpose.” Schlesinger, A Thousand Days.

In this particular case, JFK’s was probably the best expression of the idea. However, keep in mind that in combining the kernel sentences, no sentence is correct or incorrect. Just because the authors’ originals differ from your efforts at combining does not mean that the originals are necessarily better. The purpose of sentence combining exercises is to play with sentence structure.

Now let’s see if you can combine a longer series of kernel sentences. For many years, Hal Borland wrote essays in the Sunday New York Times on the changing New England seasons. A collection of these essays—one essay for each day of the year—was completed by his wife Barbara after he died while he was in the midst of arranging the collection. The title of the book is Twelve Moons of the Year. The title of this particular essay is “The Hordes” for July 6. What follows are the kernel sentences of the second paragraph of the essay. How would you combine these kernel sentences into a paragraph? Borland’s original will appear tomorrow.

In North America, there are 90,000 species of insects. 25,000 of these species are beetles. Beetles are everywhere. Beetles click. Beetles creep. Beetles gnaw. Beetles pillage. Beetles scavenge. Beetles even light the night. Dragonflies have not changed much in 300 million years. Dragonflies clatter in flight. Dragonflies stare you down. Dragonflies live on smaller insects. Flies are ubiquitous. So are mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are insatiable. Flies and mosquitoes thrive everywhere. Flies and mosquitoes thrive in heat. Flies and mosquitoes thrive in humidity. Butterflies spangle. The afternoons are hot. Moths are big. Moths are dusky. Moths haunt the garden. The evening is cool.

Your purpose is to combine the kernels into sentences that will produce a smooth paragraph. Most of the kernels are in the original order of Borland’s paragraph. Feel free to add and subtract words. Tomorrow, I will give you Borland’s original.

All the best. RayS.

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