Sentences Need 2 Words


In Charles Euchner’s new book on writing, KEEP IT SHORT: A Practical Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, he reminds us that powerful sentences come from a noun and a verb. You can’t make a sentence without these two little guys and with them you can generate quite a boom.

Consider the master of the noun/verb, perhaps its greatest practitioner in recent history.

from Keep It Short:


Get right to the point—usually. Sometimes, to orient your reader or provide variety, you can provide background or “setup” information first. But get to the point before you lose your reader.

The classic advice for all writers goes like this: Say who does what to whom. In other words, tell the reader the subject (who or what), the verb (the action), and the object (the person or thing acted upon). Or: Subject- Verb-Object. Or: S-V-O. Not every action has an object, so we might simplify the idea thus: Who does what? That’s S-V, in shorthand.

The subject and verb create the core of your sentences. Athletes know they need strong cores—the abdomen—because they need to transfer power from the legs and butt up to the upper body. If the core is weak, the athlete cannot use his limbs powerfully. The same concept applies to writing sentences. Without a strong core, the rest of the sentence falters.

Take a look at the masters of prose and how often they start sentences with the subject and verb:

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was
as though a young person died for no reason.

—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


Join us next week for #theparagraph

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