Linking Successive Sentences

The second way of maintaining flow is to connect sentences as you go. Less obvious than "first," "second," "third," this means of achieving flow seems more natural. And it can accommodate more complex relationships among ideas; it is not confined to topics that can be broken into a numbered series. Sentences can be linked in several ways.

t> Repeating Key Words

Verbal repetition is the most obvious link. Sometimes the identical word is in the short paragraph which follows on Saint variant forms of the same word, and sometimes synonymous terms:

We know that among the marks of holiness is the working of miracles. Ireland is the greatest miracle any saint ever worked. It is a miracle and a nexus of miracles. Among other miracles it is a nation raised from the dead. Hilaire Belloc

The repeated words may occur in a variety of positions. Of these the most useful are the beginnings of successive sentences, the endings of such sentences, and the close of one sentence and the opening of the one immediately following (the italics are added in the following examples):

No man of note was ever further separated from life and fact than Lindbergh. No man could be more reluctant to admit it.

John Lardner

Charles R. Forbes went to jail. Albert B. Fall went to jail. Alien Property Custodian Thomas W. Miller went to jail.

Samuel Hopkins Adams

Such plants to operate successfully had to run at capacity. To run at capacity they needed outlets for their whole output.

Thurman Arnold

A special case of synonymous repetition involves pronouns and demonstratives such as one, another, some, the former, the latter, the first, the second, the third, and so on. These words link sentences by substituting for an earlier word or phrase. This and that (along with their plurals these and those) are especially useful in this way and may be employed either as pronouns or as adjectives (italics are added):

The blind in particular seem to become indifferent to climatic extremes; and there must be in everyone's cognizance two or three immovable sightless mendicants defying rain and chill. . . .

This insensitiveness to January blasts and February drenchings may be one of the compensations that the blind enjoy. Whatever else happens to them they never, perhaps, catch cold. And that is more than something. E. v. Lucas

There is a danger, however, in using this or that as subjects. A connection clear to the writer does not always jump at the reader. The risk increases when the antecedent of the this or that is not a single word but a group of words, even a complex idea stretched over several sentences. It is sometimes better to use these words not as nouns but as adjectives modifying a more precise which clearly sums up the pre ceding point, as Lucas does with "this insensitiveness." As an adjective the this still hooks the new sentence to what has preceded it, but with less risk of confusion.

> Conjunctive Adverbs

Sentences can also be linked by conjunctive (also called transitional) adverbs, which indicate relationships between ideas. The relationship may be one of time (presently, meanwhile, of space (above, below, in front); or of logic (therefore, however, as a result).

In the following example the critic F. L. Lucas creates flow by transitional words (here italicized) in a passage answering the claim that metaphor has no place in prose:

The truth seems that metaphor too is older than any immemorial human impulse perhaps as much utilitarian as literary. For there appears little ground for assigning poetic motives to the first man who called the hole in a needle its "eye," or the projections on a saw its "teeth." In fine, metaphor is an inveterate human tendency, as ancient perhaps as the days of the mammoth, yet vigorous still in the days of the helicopter. Why then should it be banned from prose?

of the argument:

then" establish the logical framework

Assertion Reason Assertion restated Conclusion

Sentence 1 "For," sentence 2 "In fine," sentence 3 "then," sentence 4

Transitional adverbs are best placed at or near the beginning of the sentence. Readers are like people groping down a dark passage, and an important part of the writer's task is to show them the way. Connective words are signal lights telling readers what to expect. However flashes, "Contradiction ahead"; in fact warns, "Here comes a strong restatement of something just said"; and therefore, "A conclusion or a consequence is approaching."

Acquiring a working set of conjunctive adverbs is not difficult. English is rich in them. Just to show some sort of contradiction or opposition, for example, we have but, however, still, yet, nonetheless, nevertheless, though, instead, on the other hand, on the contrary, notwithstanding, even so, and the list is not complete. While they show generally the same basic relationship, these words are not exact equivalents. They convey nuances of idea and tone. Nevertheless, for instance, is a more formal word than though. Because of such slight but important differences in meaning and tone, good writers have ready at hand a number of transitional adverbs. If you can call only upon but or however you cannot communicate what is implied by yet or still or though.

And and but present a special case. Most often they act as conjunctive adverbs, joining words, phrases, or clauses within a sentence. But they can also function adverbially. Sometimes one hears the warning, "Never begin a sentence with and or The fact is that good writers do begin with these words (the italics are added):

not indeed every man a student, and do not all things exist for the student's behoof? And, finally, is not the true scholar the only true master? Ralph Waldo Emerson

I come finally to the chief defiler of undergraduate writing. And I regret to say that we professors are certainly the culprits. what we are doing we do in all innocence and with the most laudable motives. Willard Thorp

Natural philosophy had in the Middle Ages become a closed chapter of human endeavour. . . .

But although the days of Greek science had ended, its results had not been lost. Kurt Mendelssohn

As sentence openers and and but are very useful. But is less formal than however, while and is less formal and ponderous than furthermore or moreover or additionally. Don't be afraid of initial ands and huts. But use them moderately.

l> Syntactic Patterning

Syntactic patterning simply means repeating the same basic structure in successive or near successive sentences. It often holds together the parts of a comparison or contrast:

In bankless Iowa City eggs sell for ten cents a dozen. In Chicago the breadlines stretch endlessly along the dirty brick walls in windy Streets. Wallace Stegner

That New York was much more dry [non-alcoholic] on Sunday during the summer is true. That it was as dry as [Theodore] Roosevelt believed it—"I have, for once, absolutely enforced the law in New York"—is improbable. That it was dry enough to excite the citizenry to new heights of indignation is clear. Heniy F. Pringle

Syntactic patterning may be more extensive, working throughout most of a paragraph:

It is common knowledge that millions of underprivileged families want adequate food and housing. What is less commonly remarked is that after they have adequate food and housing they will want to be served at a fine restaurant and to have a weekend cottage by the sea. People want tickets to the Philharmonic and vacation trips abroad. They want fine china and silver dinner sets and handsome clothes. The illiterate want to learn how to read. Then they want education, and then more education, and then they want their sons and daughters to become doctors and lawyers. It is frightening to see so many millions of people wanting so much. It is almost like being present at the Oklahoma land rush, except that millions are involved instead of hundreds, and instead of land, the prize is everything that life has to offer. Samuel c. Fbnman

While reusing the same sentence pattern often involves repeating some words, the similar grammatical structure is in itself a strong connective device. However, you cannot impose such syntactic patterning on just any group of sentences. It works only when the underlying thought is repetitious, as in the example above, where the sentences list a series of rising expectations common to Americans. In such cases the similarity of pattern does what ideally all sentence structure should do: the form reinforces the sense.

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