Try This Sentence Structure for Clean, Inspiring Prose


Good writing starts with well-crafted sentences. In the book The Art of Styling Sentences, Ann Longknife, Ph.D. and K.D. Sullivan provide 20 basic sentence structures to help writers improve their prose. The overall construction of your story is paramount, but at some point you have to get into the nuts and bolts of each scene, paragraph, sentence, and word, then sew them together into a cohesive thought.

Here’s a simple yet potent sentence structure to try out:

{Appositive}, {Appositive}, {Appositive} – {Summary Word} {Subject} {Verb}.

This is Longknife and Sullivan’s 6th pattern. Note: an appositive is a word for something mentioned elsewhere in the sentence. When used correctly, it’s clean and effective. Pattern 6 is ideal for cramming a lot of information into a small space. Additionally, it’s stylized so you can use it to draw attention to important details in your narrative.

A few tips for using this sentence structure:

  • Use it sparingly or the pattern loses potency
  • Make sure the bundle of appositives logically connects to the independent clause
  • Only use appositives that relate to each other
  • Include a summary word before the subject and verb (all, these which, etc.)

Pattern 6 Examples

“The smell of warm earth, the ashen colored sky, the grumble of distant thunder – each of these signaled the impending storm.”

“Poetry, music, dance – such were the pursuits of my teenage years.”

“Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor – which author do you admire most?”

Bending the Rules

Pattern 6 is simple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bend the rules and add a little flair. In fact, Pattern 6 doesn’t have to stand alone; you can mix it into other sentence patterns as well. For instance:

“The Red Knight embodied loyalty, daring, love, foolishness, hope, ferocity – all these traits in one being.”

“What she realized was this: the house, the swing, the attic, the garden – these were the things that reminded her of her grandmother, the sweetest moments of her early years.”

What are your thoughts on Pattern 6? Leave a comment to share them! If you’re interested in getting a copy of The Art of Styling Sentences, you can find it here on Amazon.

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