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Lesson 31: Put Emphatic Words at the End

It's time for anther mini-lesson on a principle of good writing. This principle is # 22 in Strunk and White's famous book, The Elements of Style.

"Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end."

This principle calls attention to a fact that many writers overlook: In the English language, special prominence is given to the first and last words in a sentence. In other words, words at the beginning or at the end of a sentence carry more "weight" than words in the middle.

A simple example should help make this clear. Imagine that you have written the following sentence.

What you have done, intentionally or not, is emphasize the fact that the gun is in his hand (as opposed to some other place where the gun might be).

Probably, what you meant to emphasize was the fact that he had a gun, in which case you should have placed "gun" at the end of the sentence, like this:

That sentence carries a lot more "punch."

Students often write weak topic sentences because they are unaware of how important word order can be. Don't make this same mistake. Don't bury the "new" or "interesting" element of the sentence somewhere in the middle. Instead, place the "new" element in the final position. Consider these examples.

 

 
Weak "Punchier"
Second, there is a lot of crime in France. Second, in France there is a lot of crime.
Also, the Eiffel tower is another thing that you can see. Another thing you can see is the Eiffel tower.
Third, there are many beautiful places in Algeria. Third, Algeria is known for its natural beauty.
Another thing is that the high cost of food could spoil your vacation.

Another thing that could spoil your vacation is the high cost of food.

 

 

 

Are your topic sentences as "punchy" as they can be?

Can any of them be improved?

 

Lesson Steps

 
1.

Take a second look at your topic sentences.

Have you put the new or interesting element last?

Rearage the words, as necessary, in order to make them more "punchy".

 

2. Congratulations! You're done with this lesson.
Note: My 7th graders who have been studying clause patterns may now better understand why some clauses have "dummy subjects". A dummy subject allows the speaker to juggle the word order in a sentence in order to put the "real subject" at the end of the sentence.