Does That Sentence Flow?

I’ve been thinking a lot about flow and construction of sentences and whole paragraphs. Authors spend a fair amount of time on playing around with the words and sentence structure to find that all important flow and feel. It all comes down to how it sounds and reads on paper.

On paper, little things can really make a difference. Simple things like the term ‘had had’ which is acceptable English but on paper, doesn’t always look or sound right. Most of the time, the sentence works without the need for repeating the word.

I’ve been reading a fascinating book about what publishers look for in manuscripts. They look for any excuse to reject a manuscript and simple things, like two accompanying words starting with the same letter  could be found sloppy. So it really is important to get the best manuscript possible. Rewriting is the most important and time consuming part of writing and wordsmiths probably spend most of that time making a sentence sound the best it can possibly be. I think writers can learn a lot from poets in this aspect.

It becomes very important to learn the proper use of semi-colons, colons, dashes and parentheses when you are playing around with sentence structure. Misusing one of them will disrupt the flow, and you may not notice it doesn’t sound right, when you read through later. Other things you need to look for are echoes, alliteration and resonance.

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12 comments

  1. Which book are you reading? A really good one on the proper use of punctuation is “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynn Truss.

  2. So is alliteration a good thing or a bad thing?

  3. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Literary Agent Noah Lukeman

  4. I’ve been looking at that, but haven’t picked it up yet. As I get closer to actually sending out my novel I’ll probably be more frantic to read up on those little things that make agents reject a manuscript.

  5. when overused it makes it look bad

  6. I’ve been enjoying the book, I know agents can get very picky about manuscripts so its good to have an idea what aspects that will look for.

  7. “So is alliteration a good thing or a bad thing?”

    I think, like with most things, it’s how it’s done. Overuse of it would probably get very tiring.

    But in the right hands, at the right moment, it can be used to great affect. Nabokov’s Lolita comes to mind.

  8. there is always someone out there that does it really well. I think from a beginners point of view (someone that has never published a book) these are things we need to look at closely

  9. maryjblog /

    Alliteration is fun in small bits – it’s great for headlines, or song lyrics, but in prose, IMO, too much of it sounds like bad sportswriting (and there’s no worse writing than bad sportswriting!)

    “Flow” is a huge concern among my college students, I think because even kids who forgot or didn’t learn the fundamentals of grammar/punctuation know when something sounds bad.

  10. Shirezu /

    ““Flow” is a huge concern among my college students, I think because even kids who forgot or didn’t learn the fundamentals of grammar/punctuation know when something sounds bad.”

    I’m sorry but you have just commented using a sentence which really doesn’t flow well. That sentence should really be split into two complete sentences rather than one.

    It should be:
    ““Flow” is a huge concern among my college students. I think it is because even kids who have forgotten or didn’t learn the fundamentals of grammar/punctuation know when something sounds bad.”

    :P Couldn’t help myself.

  11. maryjblog /

    Digital Dame will back me up here, Shirezu: I deliberately wrote that sentence exactly as I would have spoken it out loud. It is in my nature to cram a lot of info into a single sentence, in part b/c I have good lungs, and really can talk that long before stopping for breath :} !

  12. maryjblog /

    Here’s the best alliteration I ‘ve seen in ages. This is most definitely NOT what I meant by bad sports writing

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Prompt-punishment-for-Pittsburgh-pierogi-who-pil?urn=mlb,249782

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