Week of January 20, 2013—Syntax Needn’t Be Taxing
Friday, January 25— Word Order
Today’s post will be short and sweet because I’m still learning to find this syntax
issue in my own writing. During Joyce Sweeney’s seminar on voice, she talked
about word order in sentences. She called it chronological syntax. “Don’t say
things backwards,” was her admonition.
Backwards: He cried, “Come here!”
Correct: “Come here!” he cried.
Cried is the powerful, emotional word in this sentence. It needs to be at the end of
the sentence for emphasis.
Backwards: He snapped up the ball after I threw it.
Correct: After I threw the ball, he snapped it up.
This sentence literally has an chronological issue. It makes no sense to tell about
snapping up the ball, before it’s thrown, so the sentence must be flipped to be
Fortunately, I have some members of my face-to-face critique group who are great
at spotting these backwards sentences and they’re helping me spot them, too. Lookfor
them in your writing. A simple change in chronological order can impact the
syntax of your writing in a powerful way.