Breaking Down a Sentence

The Teaching Company sells a course entitled “Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft.”

In the first lecture, Professor Brooks Landon demonstrates how word choice and syntax alter the meaning of what we say. He offers a mental model for thinking about this.

Take the sentence: “I then went to the store.”

Now imagine two axis: one vertical, and one horizontal.

On the vertical axis is a list of closely related words for each key word in the sentence. So along with “went,” you might see:
traveled,
drove,
biked,
walked,
ran,
and so on.

And along with “store” might be (from more abstract to more specific):
building,
Target, and
Brooklyn Center Target.

On the horizontal axis is a list of all the word-order variations of a given sentence:
I then went to the store.
Then I went to the store.
Then went I to the store.
I went, then, to the store.
To the store I then went.
I to the store then went.

The words you choose, and the order in which you place them affects the propositional content of your sentence. Sometimes it’s a subtle change of meaning.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s