How to Make Your Sentences Sing

singing sentencesI’m always excited when I stumble on a piece of writing advice I’ve never heard before. Something original. Something other than ‘cut out all unnecessary words’ (though this is something I tell my students often) or ‘write in the active voice’ (this is also good advice, for the most part). And let’s not forget ‘learn how to use semicolons properly or stop using them’ or ‘please GOD stop splicing commas’. All excellent advice. But I’ve seen (and said) each of these many times over.

Which is why I was overjoyed when I found this gem:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals — sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

— Gary Provost

Couldn’t have said it better myself (which is why I didn’t).

Photo by Caleb Roenigk.

Maybe You DO Need a Safety Net (and Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job Just Yet)

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A while ago I talked about how not having a safety net can be a great way to kick yourself into action. After all, if you need to make some cash or be booted out on the streets, chances are you’re going to figure out a way to make this work. But you might not. […]

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How to Become Confident

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Alright, I’m going to admit straight up that I don’t exactly know how to become confident, because I’ve always been a confident person, ergo — never had to try to become confident. But I’m sure it can be done. So I’ve been thinking a lot about what confidence actually is, because surely if you know […]

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5 Steps to Take if Your Shitty Clients are Beating You Down

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The danger of not believing in yourself is that you won’t be able to land good clients. You’ll constantly be stuck with the shitty ones who take the piss out of you because they know you won’t have the confidence to stand up for yourself. ‘You want me to write three pages of copy for […]

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Do You Have to Enjoy Reading to Be a Good Writer?

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Sometimes I wonder if learning about music and how it works would make me appreciate it less. Like the magic would be gone. ‘Oh, I know how they did that! HA! That’s not impressive at all!’ How do people put together sounds that make sense and are rhythmic and pleasant to listen to? What exactly […]

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