Thursday, November 12, 2009

Secrets for Writing Strong Sentences

    Ever feel like pulling your hair out over the weak sentences your children write? So often when we assign a descriptive paragraph, kids write sentences like this: There are flowers in the yard. There were waves on the beach.
     Here’s a simple technique you can use to help them beef up their sentences. First of all, go back to the power verbs and precise nouns we spoke about in an earlier post. Change the “flowers” to something specific: dandelions. And since the sentence is really about the flowers, bring that to the beginning of the sentence. Then get rid of the weak verb.

The new sentence: Dandelions dotted the yard.

     Use the same technique for the next sentence. Bring the waves to the beginning of the sentence and use a power verb.

New sentence: Waves crashed on the beach. Or for another feel: Waves lapped on the sand.

     You can also teach your children to vary their sentences. Once they understand the concept of compound and complex sentences, encourage them to vary the length and structure of the sentence. They can also practice moving around prepositional phrases.

     For strong sentences, they should also avoid the passive voice. This sometimes trips up some of the best writers. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence does not do the action of the verb. “The dog was chased by the cat.” The dog is the subject of the sentence, but it didn’t do the action. To change this to active voice, make the subject do the action. “The cat chased the dog.”

     Do children need to learn grammar? In order to present these simple concepts about sentences to you, you’ve needed to understand about nouns, verbs, prepositions, voice, and sentence structure. In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons they do need some basic lessons in grammar. Otherwise, they don’t have the background to understand when you begin to teach good writing techniques.

Do you have more tips to share with us about writing strong sentences? Share them with us in the comment section. If you have questions, ask away!

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