The Subordinating Style

The sentence styles we have looked at thus freight-train, cumulative, parallel, and similar in one essential: all treat their constituent ideas as more or less equally important. In much composition, however, it is necessary to show degrees of significance. This calls for a different principle of structure: subordination. Subordination means focusing on one idea (expressed in the main clause) and arranging points of lesser importance around it, in the form of phrases and dependent clauses.

There are four basic variations of the subordinating sentence, depending on the relative positions of the main clause and the subordinate constructions:

1. Loose structure: the main clause comes first and is followed by the subordinate clauses and phrases.

2. Periodic structure: the subordinate constructions precede the main clause, which closes the sentence.

3. Convoluted structure: the main clause is split in two, opening and closing the sentence; the subordinate constructions intrude between the parts of the main clause.

4. Centered structure: the main clause occupies the middle of the sentence and is both preceded and followed by subordinate constructions.

The four patterns may be mixed in varying degrees and frequently are. Even so, it is probably true that most subordinate sentences follow one pattern or another.

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