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Can You Write The Perfect Sentence?

Updated on November 22, 2013

A Flash from the Past

As a human being and perpetual student of life, I love the nuns who taught me at St. Patrick’s Elementary School back in the 1950’s.

As a writer, I hate the nuns who taught me at St. Patrick’s Elementary School back in the 1950’s.

How can this be you ask?

Regarding the first of my statements, the nuns really did provide an excellent education. They demanded, they cajoled, they praised and they never, ever, settled for less than our best. How could I not be appreciative of their efforts?

As a writer, however, I have some issues with Sister Mary Elizabeth and her peers. Diagram this…diagram that….participles and adjectives and adverbs, all in their proper place and all serving a specific purpose, slice and dice it here, over-analyze the crap out of it here, until by 8th grade I just wanted to projectile vomit at the thought of writing one more sentence.

What they had done in their own inimitable style was strangle the love of writing out of my very being.

They meant well. It was important, and still is today, that the English language be used correctly….but….not at the expense of quality and creativity.

So when I ask you if you can write a perfect sentence, rest assured I am not talking about grammatically perfect but rather stylistically perfect. Big difference my friends, and one that is well-worth some time contemplating.

We get so wrapped up in content it seems…ideas, plots, organization, characters, settings, and on and on we go, churning out the words and pushing forward to some personal goal of 100,000 words, or three articles per week come hell or high water….but….what about the small tasks, the intricate techniques, that determine whether our content is actually any good?

So much goes into a really superb sentence.

When I am reading novels, and believe me I read a great many novels, I love it when I come across a passage that stuns me. I will read a sentence or a paragraph and my mouth drops open, drool starts forming, and I find it impossible to utter a sound. Have you ever read such a sentence? More importantly, have you ever written one?

So let’s take a look at that quest: writing the perfect sentence. Let me toss a few ideas out at you and then you can stuff them in your writer’s tool box. Use them when you feel the need, and hopefully, some day in the not-so-distant future, you can stun your readers as well.

Can you write the perfect sentence to describe Bev standing in a river?
Can you write the perfect sentence to describe Bev standing in a river? | Source

Choose Your Words Wisely

For this lesson I’m going to borrow from an article that appeared in Esquire in 2009 called “The Man Who Never Was” written by Mike Sager:

“The Fallbrook Midget Chiefs are fanned out across the field on a sunny autumn day in southern California, two-dozen eighth-graders in red helmets and bulbous pads. Whistles trill and coaches bark, mothers camp in folding chairs in the welcoming shade of the school building, younger siblings romp. Fathers hover on the periphery, wincing with every missed tackle and dropped pass. Into this tableau ambles a tall man…..”

Please note the verbs used in that paragraph. We have fanned, trill, bark, camp, romp, hover, wincing and ambles.

That, my friends, is a thing of beauty.

He could have used spread out, blow, yell, sit, play, hang out, grimace and walks, but instead he made a superior effort and it paid off.

Write a description and then switch the words around for a better effect
Write a description and then switch the words around for a better effect | Source

Sentence Structure

From “Lolita” we have the following: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” Oh how easy it would have been for Nabokov to write “Lolita is the girl I loved,” and oh how wrong it would have been if he chose that route.

Short sentences, long sentences, sentence fragments, all are tools that a writer has at his/her disposal. Sentence structure can greatly affect the rhythm of your writing. Sentence structure controls the flow, controls the sound and controls the mood.

From “A Simple Act of Violence” by R.J. Ellory:

“And when it ends, as I know it will, there will be talk in the canteen. They will ask each other questions, and they will guess and assume and try their best to figure it all out. But they won’t come close. Not even close. And the students will gossip and trade rumors, and wonder how many I killed. Or if I killed any at all.”

There is a starkness to that paragraph that makes it nearly perfect. From the killer’s voice, it could not have been written any other way. No use of fancy adjectives or adverbs was needed, and it was written just as a cold-blooded intellectual killer would have said it.

The Poet in All of Us

I am not a poet, but I have a poet’s heart trapped inside of my prose body. Realizing that fact, I naturally gravitate towards similes and metaphors.

Have you ever written an original simile or metaphor? The key word here is original. I challenge you to do so, and in so doing release the poet trapped inside of you.

“That girl was hot! She was hotter than my Aunt Maria’s tamales.” I just made that one up; now you try!

We do not have to write in rhyme to be a poet. One of my favorite styles is called free form prose, a stream of consciousness style of writing that reminds me a bit of the old coffee shop beatniks of the 1950’s. Let me give you an example from my yet-to-be-finished new novel.

“So you lay in your bed with the shadows creeping across the walls of your life, and the realization comes that all of your searches have been in vain. The roadmap you were given was incomplete, lacking focus, lacking the right coordinates, lacking some damn thing that you can’t find on Mapquest and no damn gps unit will steer you to the straight and narrow. Only one way to get there boys and that’s take a left at tomorrow and enter the inner city, the scariest damn real estate you are ever likely to see, those six inches located from one ear to the other, a jumble of circuits composed of memories and lessons learned and emotions so powerful you just can’t face them, but you must, you must, because therein lies the answer, therein lies the secret, therein lies the reason why you are slip, sliding away.”

Give it a try. It really is a fun way to write and quite effective if used sparingly.

I have seen writers write an entire chapter with sentences that did not exceed ten words in length. I saw one sentence, I swear to God, that was 259 words long, and it was highly effective.

A very helpful video

How can you best describe this beautiful creature?
How can you best describe this beautiful creature? | Source

Variety Is the Spice of Life

Just for giggles, take a sentence you have written and toss it up in the air. See how many different ways it can land.

In other words, try an adverb in a different place; try an adjective in a different place. Move a prepositional phrase to the start of your sentence. Dangle a participle. Begin with an adjective before you name the subject. Use commas to control flow and use a semicolon instead of a period. Use alliteration of s and d for sound effects…..seal-skinned suit….play and have fun, but always in search of excellence.

These are tricks and experiments that just might pay dividends, for variety is essential to quality writing.

What say you? Can you write one perfect sentence today?

See results

Remember, Always, Our Purpose

And what is the purpose of writing? If you said communication then give yourself a pat on the back.

Trying for the perfect sentence is ambitious and praise-worthy, but never forget that our chief goal is to communicate. If we dazzle our readers with a bombastic display of showy, flowery words but lose the meaning, we have failed.

Our goal should always be to call attention to the story or idea, and never to ourselves. Use all of the tools you have in your writer’s tool box, but never lose sight of the main objective.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 3 years ago

      Hi Bill.

      Sincerely, not yet.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Total Catholic School girl here, who still hears the nuns telling me that my sentence structure is poor. So, yes I can totally tell you that as much as I try to be grammatically correct, because dammit it was ingrained it me, I still then go back and edit according to my feelings, too. Great example by the way with Lolita. One hell of a book and thanks for letting me know I am not the only one that stills remembers my Catholic School upbringing when I do write at times. Happy Friday now, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, you have time. :) Have a wonderful evening my friend and blessings always.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, how could we ever forget diagramming sentences. They haunt me still. :) Enjoy your day my friend.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I have a long way to go.... I think it's like a curve going toward infinity... I will never reach it even if I can approach it one day :-) But I am working on it everyday!

      Have a great weekend!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ah, Joelle, the joy is in the journey; you know that as well as I do. Have a wonderful journey today my French speaking friend.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Awesome, thank you. Inspiring. thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Eric. Thank you and have a glorious day.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      This is one of those days where I should just go back to bed.

      I misread a word in Martin's poem and it not only gave me a bit of a shock, but later, quite the laugh.

      In your quote I misread Midget Chiefs as Midget Chefs and I could not

      get the sentence to make any sense. Why were Midget Chefs running

      around in something that had to be a garden? Was it a fruit picking

      contest?

      It was not until I read, "tackle and dropped pass" that I caught my reading error. Now, I will have that image of tiny chefs

      running around in a garden, for the remainder of the day.

      Now, I am serious.

      Your quote, from your up coming novel, reads like two trains charging

      like raging bulls on a course of progression that will lead to total annihilation.

      (It is sure to be a hit!)

      DJ.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Oh, DJ, thanks for the laugh of the day. Way too funny my friend. Now I'll have that image with me. Thanks a lot!

      As for my quote, thank you! I am greatly enjoying the process of writing this book. I don't know if anyone else will enjoy it but I sure am.

      Have a great weekend!

      bill

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Interesting and helpful.

      Whilst the sun fell down upon the warm, smiling lady and as the potent ripples she had cast soothed deeply into William's very soul; that was the moment he found the whole of himself.

      I liked your picture. Bev is very pretty and those words are what it said to me :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anna, I will be sharing that sentence with Bev. Quite beautiful my friend. You must be a writer. :) Thank you and have a lovely weekend.

    • Brian Prickril profile image

      Brian Prickril 3 years ago from Savannah, GA

      For the longest time I thought I was alone in my love of a great sentence or paragraph. I have a few of my favorites pinned on the wall where I can read them again and again. Come to find out, I'm not so strange and alone after all.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Brian, we writers may be a bit strange, but that's what makes us interesting. :) Thanks my friend and have a great weekend.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 3 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Great Hub, Bill. I loved the concluding sentence from your new book. It was very long, but perfectly executed. I took a learning Company video course from the guy in the clip. He makes a great point that sentences need not be short (although on-line writing conventional wisdom says otherwise.) It's not the size of the sentence, but how expertly it's written. Russ Moran

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I actually loved the logistics of grammar, phrasing and sentence structure; poor me! Actually, because it was instilled in me too (though not boringly as with your nuns) it is part of my inner being. I can't bear a sentence to start with 'And..' or 'But..' or any other conjunction. Sorry, I can hear people yawning already!

      However, I agree completely that one has to make sure it doesn't squash creativity and style, that we use varied words and our own original word-crafting. Your advice is spot-on, as ever. Your voice often rings in my ears, saying 'can you find a better way of saying that?'!! Have a great weekend, bill. Ann

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Russ, how cool that you took a course from that guy. I found him interesting and his points valid.

      Thanks for stopping by my friend and I hope you have a great weekend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I am so sorry that you hear my voice ringing in your ears. LOL How horrible that must be. :)

      Ah yes, the horrid conjunction at the beginning of the sentence. I have struggled from time to time with that; I will only do it if it works perfectly with the rest of the paragraph and then it is still a struggle.

      Have a lovely weekend, Ann, and thank you!

      bill

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, I had teachers like your nuns. If you didn't learn, you couldn't. Thank you for this great lesson and exercise in sentence structure. Enjoy your weekend!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, it is always a pleasure to have you stop by. Thank you so much and I hope your weekend is memorable.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 3 years ago from Minnesota

      I never had to contend with strict nuns and my public education wasn't quite as regimented! I did, however, take several journalism courses in college and wrote for the paper, which I felt had the same affect as the nuns when it comes to creativity. Unless it's a headline, alliteration and metaphors just don't receive the same reception that they get in a novel.

      I love the examples you shared, including your own. The perfect sentence is a lofty goal, but one I definitely want to strive for. Please ignore the dangling prepositin from my last sentence! :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, I think I can ignore it since I do it on occasion. :) Thank God for creativity and the ability to kick some rules to the curb. :) Thanks my friend. I hope the temps aren't too cold yet. Have a great weekend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I had teachers like those pesky nuns of yours, only I really loved the diagramming. I had a teacher who beautifully explained to us that you had to learn the rules and learn them well before you could break them. I got that. I loved that well structured lady. She gave us plenty of examples of brilliant writers who made up their own rules (like Hemingway and e e cummings). But I appreciate your perspective! It's all in the teacher and how it's presented.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      You know, the nearer your destination, the more your slip-sliding away.

      That song will be stuck in my head now.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is indeed, Flourish. Interestingly I found diagramming to be a fun game for me since I am a very organized and logical person....but it sure killed off my creativity. LOL Thanks for your thoughts and have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lizzy, Paul Simon would be proud of you. :) Everyone, let's sing along.....Slip sliding away...Slip sliding away....

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      OMG YOU'RE :P

      Paul Simon would punch me in the face.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...I think you're taller than he is, and my money says you can take him.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Billy, talk about a jaw-dropping sentence! I am looking forward to reading that novel of yours, my friend! In the meantime, I am going to take these exercises to heart. You make this writing gig enjoyable as well as interesting.

      I have to believe if you are having fun writing your novel, then we as readers will enjoy it for sure ;) Pearl

      Voted Up++++

    • Rebecca Furtado profile image

      Rebecca Furtado 3 years ago from Anderson, Indiana

      I definitely needed to read this hub; I am often shocked at my tendency; not to recongnize my need to pick my words wisely; I tend just to go on and on foolishly believing that I am being discriptive, and speaking in the language or the everyday man on the street; I run my work by others and they can plainly see the only running I do on a regular basis, is in my sentences, sigh!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Again a great hub. Every chapter needs a great leading sentence to carry a story further but they are a challenge. It can take me several editing sessions before I’m satisfied. Here is my homework!

      After Bev managed to stabilize her footing on the soft bottom of the river, and felt the cool ripple of the current caressing her legs, the exhilarating experience made her feel like a mermaid.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it Nadine and nicely done. Wouldn't it be fun if we Hubbers could get together and take writing classes? Oh the fun we would have being creative and helping one another in a safe atmosphere.

      Anyway, you are right about leading sentences.....thanks for mentioning that and have a wonderful weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Connie, thank you so much. I think you will like this novel. I have a story line many will relate to, but it is told in an interesting manner. The human experience for sure. :) Have a great weekend my bird-loving friend.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I think some of my best sentences in my novels are the ones that are scrambled in my first draft because I'm writing so fast to get the ideas down on paper. When I try to rewrite them so they're at least closer to proper grammar, they just don't sound right to me. The solution, I use the first draft sentence even if it breaks a few of the rules. You mentioning the very long sentences reminded me of an assignment for English 101 in college. The professor had us write a 100 word sentence. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      this is what I mean by editing on and on and on...

      After Bev managed to stabilize her footing on the soft bottom of the river, and felt the cool ripple of the current caressing her legs, she had an exhilarating experience which made her feel like a mermaid.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rebecca, that was a funny line. Thank you for the smile. I hear you, I really do. I find myself in a time crunch and forget about the words I am writing....I look back over previous work and I sometimes am embarrassed. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sheila, I don't think it would be hard to do at all. I have gotten into free-form writing, and in it you can just set yourself free and do a stream of consciousness thing, and I've ended up with some rather long sentences that for me were perfect. :) Thanks for your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nadine, I love it. How many people would come back to the comment section with a revised comment? :) Bravo!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 3 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I was nervous about writing this comment. I fear I can't write the perfect sentence! I do try my best though and hopefully that is good enough... at least for the strange hubs I write. :-) Voted up!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for another tool for the tool box as well as an inspiring hub. Now excuse me while I attempt to put it in to practice.Thanks for another A+ hub, my friend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      As you know, I too did my time in Catholic school and I thank the nuns for an advanced education. When I entered 9th grade in public school, my teachers were amazed that I could diagram a sentence without thinking about it. (Shoot, I'd been doing it since 6th grade!)

      Anyway, I'm going to throw 2 sentences at you using Bev's fly-fishing pic as the inspiration. The first would be prime for an English test given By Sister Mary Elephant (oh Lord, how did Cheech and Chong slip in there?) - I mean Sister George, my 6th grade teacher:

      Knee deep in the river, Bev casts her line.

      Now, that would be a complex diagram and it wouldn't read the way the sentence reads.

      Here's something a little more creative:

      With the swirling flow of the creek dictating the rhythm of her body, she casts the perfect fly, as if reaching for her dreams. Is she casting for fish or seeking hope?

      I know this is two sentences, but I'd have to take up a whole blackboard to diagram them!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jeannie, I was wondering if anyone was going to write what you wrote. I'm not grading so you can relax. :) Thanks for the visit and have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Lifegate. I appreciate you coming by again. Enjoy a well-deserved weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Perfect, Sha! There are times I would use the first example, and there are times the second is best....you get an A+ today my friend, and as always my thanks.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I am in the learning process and i learn something i can use every time i visit your page. Thank you Bill.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I love you, Bill! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, Sha I love you too. Thank you!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Darn you Bill, just when I thought I was catching up you pulled the rug out from under me. My adverbs are running into my adjectives as they slide across my verbs on their way to my sentences! No images there ;)

      Another great bushel of advice! I have to read your hubs twice to make sure I don't miss anything and I just may have to read this one three times.

      BTW loving the new camera and the radiance in the stream that is Bev.

      Voted all but funny. I know, you were humorous but this isn't a laughing matter! Loved it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure Ruby; I hope you know how much I appreciate you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL....okay, Mary, just for you, on Monday there will not be any new lessons. Take a breather and relax for a few days; school will start up again on Wednesday.

      Thank you my friend; I'll tell Bev what you said.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Bill, I really love this write. It may be my new favorite. You have given us much to think on once again. Here it goes: The verdant knoll is where he rests mesmerized by his love's face, which has the color of spring flowers, and he ponders of those who know not of such love, the kind that pulls them like a river, where he drinks it down with all his heart and soul. Blessings and have a great weekend, Faith Reaper

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh my goodness, Faith. You might have outdone yourself with that eloquent writing. Well done my poetic friend. I love it and I'll share it with Bev.

      I hope you have a restful and relaxing and blessed weekend.

      Thank you always

      bill

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Man; nobody can use semicolons like I do but now you have made a new urge for the most beautiful or descriptive words I can put together. I am brain dead tonight but I will not forget to work on it. Thanks for the idea. Have a great weekend! ^

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Hugs : )

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      same to you Faith!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Jackie. I know all about brain dead. :) I hope you enjoy the heck out of your weekend.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      The only measure of perfection is if it serves its purpose.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      I never went to Catholic school, and I never played a nun on TV, but I do remember diagraming sentences!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

      "Perfect" depends very much upon message and context.

      You gave much food for thought here, and the nuns did well for you.

      I always thought the advice given in Strunk and White's "Elements of Style" were right on the mark I always prefer short, clear and concise, though I sometimes waver in my own exceptional, woebegone and meandering treatises... :) JK :) ?

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Bill - Like you, I read a lot and am delighted when a "perfect" sentence or paragraph makes me wish I'd written it. As a writer, I'm continuously trying to write one of those--the sentence (or paragraph) that will cause a reader to stop dead still, go back and read it again just for the pleasure of the words and the images they convey.

      Voted Up++++

      Jaye

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      I have tried thousands of them, but not one perfect one yet. Jamie

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Love it, Heidi! I'm still looking for that purpose. :) Thank you and have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      And cygnetbrown, I remember Sally Field, so there you go. LOL I may not have enjoyed it, but diagramming sentences served its purpose for this writer. Thanks for the smile.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rochelle, I think short and concise works well for certain characters in novels. It works well when I am establishing a certain rhythm in an essay, so yes, I agree with you. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Yes indeedy, Jaye! I will come across such a sentence every once in a while, and I'll almost gasp when I read it....and wow, what a moment that is. :) Thank you Jaye and enjoy your weekend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jamie, I'm still searching myself, but I know one is out there waiting for me. :) Thanks as always my friend.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      "Bev wondered with a touch of skepticism if she would catch an invisible trout with her invisible fishing pole."

      Up, Useful, Interesting, Beautiful, and shared with followers.

      I have been on a lifelong quest to master what I began learning about sentences in high school in the Perrin handbook of English.

      A perfect sentence is only perfect in context. What would be a perfect sentence at this point in this story, poem, speech, advertisement, script,…?

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes, exact descriptive sentences can paint a picture in the mind and imagination that is worth at least a thousand words, but, as an example of brevity in a context, "Jesus wept. ", is a very meaningful and concise sentence.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are so right, Brian; perfection is subjective at best. By the way, Bev caught an invisible fish on that outing. :) Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is indeed, Rochelle. It is indeed. :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      As Bev waded through the cool clear water she realised that striving to write the perfect sentence was as futile as catching a fish with an imaginary fishing line.

      Haha Bill...just joking. Great, helpful hub as usual.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Always an informative and helpful hub indeed. You have created such an interesting title Can You Write The Perfect Sentence? is definitely useful and worth reading to a writers.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      John, you may have been joking but I like it! Thanks for playing along buddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you as always DDE! I hope you are having a wonderful Saturday.

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      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      What is this 'diagramming' stuff you all keep talking about? I've never heard it before and I can't think what the British equivalent might be!

      BTW, how about this sentence: 'Bev, ecstatic with her success, informs Bill, "I got one! It was that big!"'

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I'm not sure I can describe diagramming adequately. It was a dissecting of a sentence so that adverbs and adjectives were aligned perfectly, as were all other parts of the sentence. It was tedious but helpful in understanding the structure of a sentence.

      And I love your sentence, and anyone who knows Bev knows she would be ecstatic. :)

      Have a marvelous weekend Ann!

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      Christin Sander 3 years ago from Midwest

      Oh my goodness, I had forgotten all about those hours and hours of sentence diagramming. :) I actually enjoyed it though, which prompted others to tease me a bit, but I think it did help a lot structurally. I agree so much on the choice of words. Sometimes something as simple as changing a word or two can transform an ordinary piece into something unforgettable. The age of internet writing seems to rob us of a lot of that beauty of words. Everyone wants bland, "easy to understand" content etc. boring...

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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I'm trying constantly. Perfection is a tough thing to achieve. But as you say, the goal as a writer is to communicate and engage.

      Looks like you're getting very comfortable with that new camera, great photos. Hope you're having a great weekend.

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      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I love this hub- but this was my favorite part, "I love it when I come across a passage that stuns me..." SO true. When I get to that part in an article or book, I feel like I don't have to read anymore (although I do), but it is a great feeling. And, many of those sentences were, by definition, incorrect. For instance, they might've been four lines long of a run-on sentence, or a mere fragment that spoke volumes. We all know the do's and don'ts but amazingly enough, it's the sentences that break the rules that often capture the greatest audience and have the most impacting effect. I have left many a dog ear on pages that had those perfect sentences. (Shhh- don't tell the authors)!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for writing the last sentence. I feel that way too about internet writing. Thanks Christin; great observations.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am having a nice weekend, Bill, and nice job on your latest article. Well done my friend.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Liz, I promise, I won't tell the authors. LOL I agree with everything you said. Great writing may follow the rules most of the time, but great writers also have an instinct about when rules need to be broken. I want to be that some day. :) Thank you and have a great weekend.

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      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      ...You already ARE that! :)

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Liz. Thank you!

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      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing another awesome hub!

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      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Oh, I really enjoyed this. When I was in grammar school, I was fascinated with words and sentence structure. I enjoyed diagramming. I enjoyed learning new words. Today, the dictionary and Thesaurus are my favorite writing tools. I never thought about the perfect sentence being what you present in this tutorial. I learn something new every day.

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      Ireno Alcala 3 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I make simple up to intermediate sentences. I don't know if it's already perfect. LOL!

      Thanks for giving us practical tips. It helps. :)

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      Mary Hyatt 3 years ago from Florida

      I haven't thought of diagramming sentences in years!! I hate doing that in school, but it served a good purpose in teaching us to write.

      I don't think I can write a perfect sentence. I write pretty much the way I talk.

      Thank you for this Hub. My best, Mary

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      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      I like your example of free form writing. Sometimes it's hard to convey a picture in our minds to paper. I find that when I am under a lot of stress, I can't think of anything to write. It blocks my creative flow. Like last week! LOL

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      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      A perfect sentence. I'm up for the challenge. I do have fun with sentences :)

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, vkwok; thank you for always being here.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Marlene, that makes two of us. I love words and playing with words. I am always looking for the perfect combination....and the quest continues. Thank you my dear.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      travel_man.....they are perfect when you declare them perfect. In the end we are the ones we have to please. :) Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, diagramming did help; I just didn't like it. LOL Kind of like going to the doctor. It might be necessary but that doesn't mean I look forward to it. Thanks for sharing and the visit.

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      whonunuwho 3 years ago from United States

      Writing the perfect sentence is an interesting challenge, and one, which is at the root of all creativity.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brandi, then I would suggest skipping all the rules and just writing free....let your thoughts go immediately to paper....word association....whatever it takes to get the words down on paper. Have fun with it and the block will clear. :)

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Linda, I suspect you have written a few in your time. And isn't it wonderful that we have fun doing this?

      Thank you and have a great Sunday.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well then, whonu, let's go for it! This week we will both write the perfect sentence and then celebrate together. :) Thanks my friend.

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      Lisa Williams 3 years ago

      This is great advice, Bill! I will definitely start making an effort to write the perfect sentence. I was told recently that I needed to make my story sizzle, and this is a great place for me to start! Thanks for sharing!

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      Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

      Billy your hubs are always very well written,clever,educational and full of useful advices, i personally have to thank you for that!!

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      drbj and sherry 3 years ago from south Florida

      Here is my candidate, Bill, for the perfect sentence:

      "Congratulations, we have just sold the one millionth copy of your book, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So."

      Signed: "Amazon."

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lisa, sizzling is a good thing. :) Just make sure you allow yourself to be average from time to time. Nobody writes the perfect sentence every time they sit down. :) Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, I truly appreciate your comment. If I help others then my job is done and I am a happy writer. Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      drbj, that would, indeed, be a perfect sentence. I'm trying my friend.

      Have a great Sunday and thank you!

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      denden mangubat 3 years ago from liloan, cebu, philippines

      since I am not good in english i think i have to review back what I have learned in my grade school days about how to arrange adverbs properly like adverbs of manner ,adverbs of time, adverbs of place.... voted up

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      denden, my best wishes to you. Writing in your second language is a major challenge for anyone. Thank you for the visit.

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      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Interesting along with useful here.

      I am on a catch up today and so nice to be able to enjoy and learn from your wonderful hubs once again.

      Lots of love to you from Wales.

      Eddy.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for thinking of me, Eddy. I hope your week is rewarding and extraordinary.

      love,

      billy

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      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Well, I didn't go to Catholic school, but I still learned sentence structure ( not used very well in this sentence). I try to use it when I write, but sometimes like to throw in some changes. I think it makes things more interesting. There are certain songs that I like to listen to and then envision the lyrics as sentences. There are some beautiful ones to be found.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, I think sentence structure is a guideline. Often times, for rhythm and tone, we need to play with the structure and not worry about the rules. :) I use music quite often for inspiration. Thanks for your thoughts.

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      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I remember the first time we were introduced to sentence structure in first grade. It was so exciting to put words together to make a complete thought: I can walk. Wow! Now you have challenged us to the max on this topic. Thanks for the examples and lesson, teach!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, the quest continues and probably always will as long as I can string words together. I read some of the classics and I just drool...that's what I want to be able to do. :) Happy Thanksgiving Dianna.

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      lovedoctor926 3 years ago

      Bev is standing in the lake feeding the ducks. Billy, I don't see any ducks in the pond, but it definitely looks like Bev is posing for a picture or feeding the birds or wildlife. She's looking blissful. I remember when I was in middle school having to diagram sentences. You know, I really liked diagramming & it helped me dissect and learn the parts of speech better. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Bev. Blessings.

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      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      “As a human being and perpetual student of life, I love the nuns who taught me at St. Patrick’s Elementary School back in the 1950’s. As a writer, I hate the nuns who taught me at St. Patrick’s Elementary School back in the 1950’s.”

      Lol! As a graduate of Mt. St. John’s Academy, I can relate sooo well. The teachers who were not nuns were the worst. I used to cringe before entering "English” that was actually “grammar.” Those slice and dice days with diagramming sentences were awful. {Shudder.} My father, who was a superb published writer, told me to never sacrifice good writing for the sake of grammar. It took years to figure out what he meant but it finally sunk in. He would have LOVED this hub. Excellent, Billy.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Doc! Bev is just doing her Bev thing. LOL Happy Thanksgiving to you my friend and blessings always.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Genna I would have greatly respected your dad. LOL Thank you for your memories and of course for stopping by.

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      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Thanks, Billy. Dad would have respected you a great deal. He also told me: “When you first begin to write, you write for yourself. Then you write for your publisher -- but be careful of that one -- then, you write for people. Know your audience.” Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. :-)

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it, Genna! Thank you for the reminder and I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with love.

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      Audrey Selig 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Billy. Writing good sentences is so important. They do improve the flow of writing. Some days you can do it well, and other days you might struggle. This hub is challenging. It makes us stop and think about the importance of each sentence we write. We need to diversify. Thanks for sharing. Blessings. Audrey

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audrey, your points are all valid. I will have days when the words flow perfectly; lately it is like pulling teeth without an ounce of originality. Oh well...it makes us appreciate the good sentences we do write. Thank you for the visit and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Thanks for this post, Bill. I care very much about 'getting it right' but I do so completely agree that it is the quality of the communicative power of a sentence that matters in the end.

      After all, much poetry - and great literature for that matter (think Shakespeare, Joyce, Dylan Thomas, every one a rule breaker!) -departs from conventions of grammar and style in the service of the true grail to which we all aspire: communication. Connection.

      Mindi.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mindi, you hit it right on the head....communication and connection. Rules are only rules, there as a guiding tool.....mix in a little creativity and who knows what we will end up with? Thank you for your thoughts and have a great weekend.

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      Jonathan McCloskey 3 years ago from Cinnaminson, New Jersey

      I like the creative flow, I can't stand mechanical writing that seems as thought a machine wrote it out. Great article, Bill.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I feel the same way, Jon. I'll leave the "how to" articles to other people who have the patience to write them. Thanks for your thoughts.

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      lambservant 3 years ago

      I loved this hub. Never went to catholic school but heard the stories. I tried to take a grammar course online awhile back and got totally frustrated with it and gave up. I actually wrote a humorous hub on it. But you are so right, analyzing the pooey out of sentences, grammar and spelling takes the utter joy out of writing. Moderation in all things.

      Your writing examples were interesting. I particularly got a lot out of the first one and your comments. The verbs were different and made the passage more colorful. We can do this with adjectives as well. Sometimes when I'm writing and a sentence sounds boring, I try to come with different words that mean pretty much the same. For example, I love writing poetry about fall. Instead of using the words orange, red, brown, yellow leaves, I will say something like crimson for red, gold or amber for yellow, etc. I will confess also that every once in a blue moon when I want to get out of ho hum and my mind is coming up empty for better words I use a thesaurus.

      Have you ever been reading something and thought "Man I wish I had written that or could write like that." I used to get so caught up in other's writing that I would try to emulate them. Bad idea. We must be true to ourselves.

      Great hub Billy. I have been pondering turning to fiction. Writing a whole book scares me so I think I will start with short stories.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      lambservant, I'm on my third novel and to tell you the truth it still scares me. Maintaining a certain quality for 100,000 words is difficult on the best of days. Short stories are excellent for getting in the novel mode. As for reading something that makes me wish I had written it, all the time.....but I have to forge my own way in this business. Maybe one day I'll write something that others wish they had written. Then I'll know I have arrived. :) Thanks for a wonderful comment.

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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Rules for writing are always meant to be broken. In what other way will you achieve memorable?

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting question, Deb, and one I happen to agree with. Thank you!

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      Aga 3 years ago

      Perfection - we all want it, but it is so hard to achieve, isn't it? Let's not kill ourselves, trying to make it perfect :-)

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Monis, I want it but I doubt I'll ever see it....but life is about the journey, is it not? So let's enjoy that and let others worry about perfection.

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