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English: Sentence Opening Techniques

by Jordan Weagly

Varying your sentence opening techniques can keep a reader’s attention and maintain fresh prose. Sentence openings might include commands, transitional words, introductory clauses or “if/then” statements. Of course, more basic sentences can begin with the subject and an accompanying verb. With many varieties of sentences to choose from, writers should avoid repeating the same first word of several sentences in a row. After all, as the Purdue Online Writing Lab agrees, using several types of sentence opening techniques can help you create more interesting writing in any genre.

Subject-Verb-Object

One important sentence opening dominates the English language. In this technique, the subject comes first, followed by a verb and then an object, such as “Alex ate cheese.” Although common, this basic sentence opening can nonetheless be useful and important. For example, short subject-verb-object sentences can be emphatic. The majority of sentence variations either rearrange the location of these essential elements or delay the introduction of the subject.

Commands

When writing a command, the verb comes first and the subject is usually omitted, such as “Go outside.” Commands often provide useful sentence openings, especially for drawing attention to particular ideas or actions, but take care not to sound pushy. This sentence opening technique can also be helpful when asking readers to think further on a subject, as in “Consider the implications.” Using commands can also make your writing more persuasive.

Transitions

Words that help transition from one idea to another can also be used in sentence openings. Transition words typically come right before a subject and include adverbs like “also,” “therefore” and “so." Taking the time to transition helps you create flow in many forms of writing, such as personal narrative: “We wanted to race. So, we ran there.” Including transition words can also make your ideas more cohesive and more credible.

Introductory Phrases

Before the subject appears in a sentence, introductory phrases can offer additional information or establish connections between ideas. For example, these two sentences are closely connected: “We won the game. We got ice cream.” An introductory clause at the start of the second sentence could show readers a more detailed connection: “We won the game. To celebrate our victory, we got ice cream.” By adding more context and flavor to sentences through introductory phrases, you can create more interesting writing that clearly establishes connections between ideas and experiences.

If/Then

If you want to show progression, an “if/then” statement can help you. "If/then" statements naturally vary the sentence opening and can therefore be useful when other techniques fail to show cause and effect. Too many if/then statements can be distracting, so it is best to use them sparingly. Similarly, “not only/but also” statements can show the connection of ideas in a succinct way: “Not only is the test difficult, but it is also long.” It is also best to use "not only/but also" statements sparingly.

About the Author

Writing in the Lehigh Valley, Jordan Weagly has been a professional writer since 2007. His work has appeared in “Travel Host” and “The Keystone.” Weagly has more than four years of experience as an English tutor and holds a MA in English as well as a BA in professional writing from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

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