A weekly grammar tip created by Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
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Victoria, TX 77901
|Varying Sentence Openings, Part I
by Kelli Trungale
It is tempting for writers, especially those who are beginners and or/uncomfortable with their writing skills, to use the same pattern for every sentence in a piece of work. This tendency to avoid straying from “the norm” can cause boredom for readers. Writers can use a variety of different sentence opening strategies in order to avoid monotony and add some variety to their work.
One way to open a sentence is with a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases often tell the reader where something takes place. Check out the following example:
Out of the clear, blue sky, Joanna decided she wanted to become an actress.
The italicized phrase in the sentence above tells
readers where Joanna’s decision came from.
Another strategy writers can use to vary sentence openings is to use adverbs. Adverbs often tell readers how, when, where, etc. an action is done. The following example demonstrates the use of this strategy:
Suddenly, Joanna decided she wanted to become an actress.
The adverb, which is italicized in the sentence above,
tells readers how Joanna decided to become an actress—suddenly.
Yet another sentence opening strategy is using a conjunctive adverb, such as however, moreover, or therefore. Conjunctive adverbs indicate relationship. For instance, therefore indicates a conclusion or result follows, however indicates contrast or exception, etc.
Joanna decided she wanted to become an actress.
Therefore, she began attending drama school.
Using an appositive is another effective strategy for writers to use for sentence openings. An appositive at the beginning of a sentence is a phrase that describes the subject of a sentence. It is usually set off with a comma when it is placed at the beginning of the sentence.
A drama queen at heart Joanna decided she wanted to become an actress.
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|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Kelli Trungale
Along with our website, we recommend the following site: Good Documents. This site offers an extensive list of writing techniques that can enhance the quality of any document. Several suggestions are listed, many of which are accompanied by helpful examples.
|Test Your Knowledge
by Kelli Trungale
Test your understanding by rewriting the beginnings of each of the following sentence using the strategy indicated in parentheses.
1. The traffic began to ease up after the police created a detour. (Use an adverb.)
2. The starlit sky proved to be an inspiration to Tony as he wrote in his journal. (Use an appositive.)
3. Children quickly filed into the auditorium to hear the famous author’s speech. (Use a prepositional phrase.)
4. I wonder if the job opportunity is still available. (Use a coordinating connective in a second sentence.)
Answers. Your answers may differ from the sentences below.
1. Slowly, the traffic began to ease up after the police created a detour.
2. A black canvas with millions of diamond-like sparkles, the starlit sky proved to be an inspiration to Tony as he wrote in his journal.
3. From their classrooms, the children quickly filed into the auditorium to hear the famous author’s speech.
4. I wonder if the job opportunity is still available. Furthermore, I wonder if I am even qualified for such a job.
**NOTE: These are only a few of the possible answers. Ultimately, it is up to the writer to decide which strategies and word choices are the most appropriate for his or her purpose.
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