Tutorial 19 - master grammar and write for action.
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Good grief, is it really grammar?
As a writer, you need to understand the basic parts of speech – verbs, nouns, objects, adjectives, adverbs, articles, and so on. But you don’t have to worry about the structure of a sentence. Just remember that every sentence usually has a subject, a verb and an object. ‘The house is red’: article, subject, verb, object.
Worry less about the structure and more about the flow of the sentence.
Learn to write action sentences
1) Different ways to write a sentence:
‘The cost of a Braille typewriter is $100.’
This is a simple, declarative sentence. But in most letters it would be flat and fail to move the reader from one point to the next. How can we re-write that sentence to give it strength?
‘You can provide a Braille typewriter for only $100.’
And so on... See how much more exciting the sentence becomes when you avoid a ‘passive’ tone? Beginning a sentence with ‘the’, or ‘a’ is almost always passive.
Action sentences can also tell the reader exactly what to do:
‘Sit down right now and write your cheque for $25.’
2) Keep the construction simple.
3) Keep the clauses short.
Clauses of more than 17 words can slow down the reader. You can string together any number of clauses to give variety to the length of sentences.
4) Add a kicker, or additional benefit, to the end of a sentence.
‘Your charity dollar sent through World Relief is carefully administered.’
Boring! It needs a kicker. You can go two ways: add a benefit to the donor, or to the recipient:
‘Your charity dollar sent through World Relief is carefully administered for the sake of a suffering mother and her children.’
‘Your charity dollar sent through World Relief is carefully administered to make your hard-earned dollars perform more good works.’
Fun, isn’t it?
5) Try a double-barrelled sentence:
‘Your help is deeply appreciated.’
Usually, this kind of sentence needs to run on and keep the reader thinking about why the help is appreciated:
‘Your help is deeply appreciated, and I’m sure your gift gives you a warm and wonderful feeling.’
6) Rhythm: short sentences add punch. Emphasise a key point. Let the reader breathe.
Good letters use a combination of long and short sentences. Use long sentences for explanation, short sentences for action.
Whatever you do, avoid monotony. Give the reader a change of pace. Don’t be afraid of a
7) Use the present tense:
your letter is a current communication, with a message of urgency. In most cases, stay away from past or future tenses.
8) Use the second person, don’t write:
‘Contributors will be proud to participate in this project.’
‘You will be proud to participate in this project.’