Writing Tip: Ten Ways to Start Sentences

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.

Musty aromas drifted on the air, reminiscent of mushrooms, decaying pears, and the worm bin she’d built in seventh grade for extra credit.

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.”

Jumping to conclusions seems to be your default these days, she thought with annoyance and then narrowed her eyes.

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.

Along the porch planks in the fading light, a human shadow appeared, carrying a shovel.


• 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.

Happy writing!



Filed under Writing Tips

11 responses to “Writing Tip: Ten Ways to Start Sentences

  1. fuonlyknew

    Thanks for the tips Marny. While I’m not an author, I do struggle with my reviews. This is really going to help me and I’m saving this to my writing tips file!
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

    • Hi, Laura! I’m glad you found helpful ideas here. Sometimes we just need to look at sentences in a different way. Have a terrific Thanksgiving, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Pingback: Am liebsten | Of Glass & Paper

  3. You’re welcome. Thanks for the feedback, John!

  4. Great tips! I’m going to be putting them to very good use. Thanks for stopping by my blog. It lead me to a great one right here.

  5. I am going over a manuscript now and this post could not have been timelier- Thanks too for visiting Move the Chair-I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and look! I also look forward to reading more of your blog-

  6. Thank you. It’s a great list to go over when I’m feeling stuck. I enjoy visiting your blog! 🙂

  7. jacqueline miz

    Thanx alot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s