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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Word Placement by Guest Blogger: Gail Martin

Word Placement for Powerful Sentences

by Gail Gaymer Martin

How words are placed in sentences determines the power words, the word that is the focus of the sentence. Sometimes, it’s easy to allow the major point or focus of the sentence to get lost in the structure. By putting it in the correct location, you can change the emotion and power of the sentence.

Margie Lawson, psychology counselor, is well known for her fiction editing and emotion workshops. I enjoyed one of her courses a few years ago and especially what she taught in her class Empowering Characters Emotions.  Though this technique, which Margie calls “backloading,” not only is the emotion enchanced, but it places the focus word at the end of the sentence, a place of power. This last word in the sentence draws attention to it and enforces emphasis, making your writing more dynamic. The words are truly empowered.

Here are a few examples:

Original Sentence: Tears filled her eyes.
Powered Structure: Her eyes filled with tears.

In the original structure, the power word is eyes, but is this the focus? Ask yourself which word is most significant. Though a simple change, the emphasis of the sentence is tears.

Original Sentence: Her throat tightened with the words that formed in her mind.
Powered Structure: Words formed in her mind as her throat tightened.
The revision helps to focus on the emotion she feels, shown as her throat tightens.

Once again, read the first sentence and ask which is the power word in this sentence.

Original Sentence: With her spirit wavering, she shrugged off her attitude and enjoyed the scenery.
Powered Structure: With her spirit wavering, she enjoyed the scenery and shrugged off her attitude.

I think it’s clear that her changing attitude is the focus here and one that is the empowering word of the sentence.
Read this sentence and before you check the re-write, ask yourself what’s most important in the sentence.

Original Sentence: From the past she recalled that Bonnie tended to go into a tizzy when she didn’t get what she wanted.
Powered Structure: From the past she recalled when Bonnie didn’t get what she wanted, she  tended to go into a tizzy.
I think you’ll agree that Bonnie’s tizzy is most important. It’s the part of the sentence that draws more emotion and is the most important piece of information in this sentence.

This technique can make a difference in your writing, One caution: don’t use this method if it ruins the natural flow of your sentence or if it sounds awkward or forced. You can’t structure every sentence with backloading or it can lose its effect, but chose the sentences that will enhance emotion and point readers to what’s important. It’s easy to do. Pull the strongest and most important word from within your sentence and put it at the end, the place of power.   

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