Have you ever reviewed your writing and found that something felt repetitive, but you couldn’t quite pin down the problem? Try looking at the beginning of your sentences. If you start the same way each time, with a noun or pronoun, for instance, a certain rhythm and monotony creeps in, even if your word choices are varied and your verbs active.
Breaking free from this rut is simple: just rework to create new sentence openers. Here are some ideas to get you started.
• Noun: a person, place, thing, animal, or abstraction (quality, concept, etc.).
Ashley took a steadying breath, walked up to the porch, and rang the doorbell.
Sprinklers lay unused on a yellowing lawn.
• Pronoun: a substitute for a noun.
She didn’t hear anything inside the house, not even the dog, Buster.
It felt deserted.
• Adjective: a modifier for a noun or pronoun.
Brown stains dotted the wooden planks underfoot.
• Article: a type of adjective (a, an, the).
A wave of revulsion washed over her.
The murder happened here.
• Verb: an action or state of being.
Calm down, Ashley told herself.
Don’t you think you’re overreacting?
• Gerund: a noun created from a verb by adding “ing.”
Collecting evidence wouldn’t be a bad idea, however.
• Adverb: a modifier for a verb, adjective, or adverb, answering questions such as how, when, where, and in what way.
Carefully she scraped up a few stained splinters and bundled them in a tissue.
Never had her fingers shaken so much.
Suddenly she couldn’t wait to leave.
• Conjunction: a connector between clauses and phrases.
But what about Buster?
And the cat that lived in the barn?
• Preposition: a link between nouns and pronouns and other parts of the sentence.
On the distant interstate, sirens wailed.
• Interjection: an exclamation conveying emotion.
“Oh! You’re here!”
“Bingo, Ashley. You always were observant.”
It’s easy, once you get the hang of it. By the way, the sentences here are simply meant to illustrate. In reality, you wouldn’t want to place two of the more rare forms side by side, like the gerund phrases.
Writer, editor, and writing instructor Elizabeth Lyon inspired this blog post. Thanks, Elizabeth! See her book Manuscript Makeover for more great ideas.