What is it that makes something compelling to read? Good writing just seems to flow. Can only talented writers do this? Or is it a skill that can be learned? We thought we’d reveal some tricks - a toolkit anyone can use to vary the pace of their writing and make it more enticing.
Amazon recently messed up. They sent out what appears to be an email template, en masse, to their millions of subscribers. Read it for yourself below...
What a great demonstration of sentence variety! What rhythm! What technique!
‘Now listen’. Notice how this two-word sentence stops you in your tracks. You notice short sentences because they’re rarer. They are also simpler to understand. You get their meaning immediately. That makes them perfect for big messages.
Get in the mood
The Amazon email also changes what grammarians call, ‘the mood’. ‘Now listen’ is imperative. It’s telling us to do something. So it adds a refreshing shift from the declarative sentences before it. They just describe things and are far more common.
What other moods could you use? There’s the interrogative, where you ask a question. And the exclamatory mood, which expresses emotion.
Is there anything else we can use to vary how we write? Yes. Take a look at these two rare but refreshing sentence types.
The periodic sentence
Tricky, frustrating and elusive, let’s hear it for the periodic sentence. These leave the main clause until after the qualifying clauses. ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears’. They are ideal for when you want to list things. Their oddly captivating quality comes from the reader having to wait for the verb. Whether you’re a friend, a roman or a countryman, you don’t know why you’re being called out. So you keep on listening. Periodic sentences hook the reader in. They make terrific subject lines for newsletters as you can list several topics.
E.g. Stressed, time-poor and in a hurry, the Amazon intern accidentally sent out a template in a mass email.
The balanced sentence
Apparently, it’s the symmetry in a face that makes it beautiful. We love balance in sentences too. You just need something that repeats or chimes. These sentences are great for big, important statements. They are perfect for straplines. So, if you have a world-changing idea, say it with a balanced sentence.
E.g.s That's one small step for a man; one giant step for mankind.
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing
Varying the length, mood and type of sentences gives the writer a range of ways of making statements and the reader a stimulating ride. You are more likely to convey what you want to say and they are more likely to believe it to be true.