The Wild and Crazy Guide to Writing Sentences

The Wild and Crazy Guide to Writing Sentences

You’ve heard them.

The “gurus.”

The Internet marketers. The social media experts. The serial product launchers.

(Even some popular bloggers are guilty of it.)

“Blogging is easy,” they say glibly. “And it’ll bring you all the attention, money and recognition you desire.”

“All you have to do is write epic content.”

Meanwhile, you’re sitting there at your keyboard pounding your fists in frustration, because you have all these fantastic ideas that you want to share, but you’re afraid that you can’t do them justice.

Epic? You’re afraid your writing isn’t even enjoyable.

You worry that you’re not a good enough writer. That your ideas are simply going to vanish into the electronic ether because you can’t attract enough readers with your words.

Sometimes you even wonder if you should just give up on your blogging dreams altogether.

But you shouldn’t. And here’s why.

You can become a great blogger and writer by mastering just one fundamental skill.

The Fundamental Building Blocks of All Great Writing

Contrary to what the experts say, blogging is not easy for most of us. However, it’s a craft that can be developed with practice.

And at the heart of the craft of blogging is one very basic ability…

The ability to write good sentences.

Master the art of sentence-writing and you can paint vivid word pictures that people will rush to read and share. Learn to write great sentences and you’ll set your ideas free.

The good news is that you already know more than you think you do about how to write effective sentences. Some of it you’ll have learned at school, the rest through experience, but it’s all there. You just need to be reminded of it—to formalize some key concepts in your mind so that you can draw upon them at will.

Then you can go wild and crazy as a blogger and writer and let your ideas run riot.

Sentences: Bite-Sized Morsels of Meaning

Why is it so important to focus on writing good sentences? Because each one carries a lot of responsibility.

A sentence must simultaneously do two things: hold the reader’s interest in what it’s saying, and act as a tiny bridge to the next one.

Imagine your sentences as links in a chain. The stronger you can make each one, and the more tightly you can connect it to the ones on either side, the more powerful your writing will be.

But…what exactly is a sentence, anyway?

Traditionally, a sentence contains a subject (the main person or thing being described) and a verb (the action being taken). Sometimes it also includes a direct object (the secondary person or thing that the action is happening to).

But for our purposes, we’re simply going to define a sentence as the smallest unit of reading that contains meaning.

That means “She stood at the bathroom mirror gazing thoughtfully at her reflection as she thought about how many years had passed since her senior prom” is a sentence…but so is “Uh-oh.”

In a nutshell, sentences act as cohesive bundles of words that make sense together, and that can be threaded together to tell an informational or entertaining story.

And context is everything. For instance, the rules of grammar will tell you that the words oh, wonderful can’t be a sentence by themselves because they don’t express a complete thought. But what about this piece of dialogue?

“Look, Melanie! We’re having octopus steak for dinner again!”

“Oh, wonderful.”

In context, you know exactly what those words mean—right down to the tone of voice in which they are being spoken.

So forget about the technical definition of what sentences are—focus instead on what they do. They relate short, coherent bursts of meaning.

Great. So now that we’re clear on that, how do you construct good ones?

6 Ways to Write Sentences Epic Posts Are Built Upon

The best way to develop an ear for good sentences is to read good writing. A lot of it. Take the advice of one of the best writers of our times:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. — Stephen King

There’s no substitute for immersing yourself in the good stuff and letting it sink into your consciousness until it becomes second nature. Ernest Hemingway. Margaret Atwood. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. John Irving. Virginia Woolf. Jane Austen. Mark Twain. The list goes on and on.

But in the meantime, how can you improve your sentence-writing skills, hook your readers’ attention almost against their will, and gain the devoted readership you crave?

You concentrate on writing crisply. Juicily. So that every word in a sentence has a good reason for being there.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. — William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Here are some great ways to make sure that every word you write earns its place:

1. Use words that pack an emotional punch

The best sentences do more than relay facts and figures—they wake you up and make you feel alive.

You want to offer that gift to your readers.

The way to do that, as Jon Morrow so skillfully explains in this post, is to channel the emotion you want your readers to feel through yourself first.

If you allow yourself to dive deeply into love, anger, fear, joy, or any other emotion, letting it crackle through you and out your fingertips as you write, it will jump like arc lightning from you to the page, then to your readers’ hearts and souls.

Here are some great sentences that do just that:

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. — Maya Angelou

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. — Mark Twain

So burn it up, baby. Your ideas are counting on you. — Jon Morrow

Another way to ensure that your sentences pack an emotional punch is to use power words that evoke specific feelings.

You don’t want to overuse this technique (in which every brilliantly scintillating piece of prose is breathtaking and full of joyous gusto!) or you’ll look ludicrous.

Instead, use it like a spice in those places where you really want to jazz up a sentence or two—definitely in your post’s headline, probably in your subheads, and certainly in those tweetable little nuggets that you’d like to see shared via social media.

And be sure to use more of them in anything you specifically want to incite strong emotion and/or action in your readers, such as a manifesto.

So let those feelings flow, sprinkle some power words with a judicious hand, and make your sentences sizzle!

2. Jolt sentences into life using the active voice

Most sentences are (and should be) written in the active voice, meaning that the subject is doing the action—to, with, or in some other type of relation to the direct object, when there is one. Here’s an example:

Rex ate the crispy bacon.

The passive voice twists things around so that the direct object is acted upon by the subject (and sometimes the subject is left out of the sentence entirely).

The crispy bacon was eaten by Rex.

The crispy bacon was eaten.

The passive voice isn’t technically incorrect—it’s just a weaker way to express a thought. The omission of the subject can also lead to confusion about who the real actor is…which is why the passive voice is so often used in law and politics. 🙂

For instance:

Some unfortunate oversights occurred during the mission.

Who’s responsible for the oversights? We’re not told. (And someone avoids getting fired.)

Again, the passive voice isn’t necessarily wrong, and there may be times you choose to use it. Just do so very sparingly.

3. Stimulate the senses with concrete, colorful description

Just as you can transfer emotions to your readers by feeling them yourself first, you can turn each sentence into a vivid word picture for them by using specific and rich detail to describe what you see in your own mind’s eye.

Use all your senses to dive into what you’re thinking about before you write it down. Make your descriptions concrete and specific. Do this and your sentences will come alive.

So don’t just tell us you were excited to exhibit at a local art show—describe the growing flutter in your stomach as the date approached.

Don’t just say it was a lovely fall day—make us hear the crunching of the red-gold leaves under your feet and smell the woodsmoke from your neighbors’ fireplaces.

In short, make sure that your sentences evoke strong images.

Which of the following two sentences make you feel more like you’re at the event being described?

  1. “I saw some surprising new things at the electronic music convention.”
  2. “The most exciting surprise came on the second day of the electronic music convention, when I watched a button-sized device respond to colored lights with different musical notes.”

The second sentence isn’t better because it’s longer, but because it describes so much more specifically what occurred. It’s much easier for the reader to picture what happened.

4. Vary your rhythm to keep readers guessing

You can easily get caught in the trap of making most of your sentences similar in length. But the steady rhythm that uniformity produces will quickly lull your readers into a comatose state…just like the hum of car wheels against the freeway lulls many a passenger to sleep.

So shake it up. Use sentences as short as the previous one to add a percussive bite to your writing, which will keep your audience on their toes. And use longer ones to explain things in more detail or add a flowing quality to your words.

You can—and should—even sprinkle some one-, two-, and three-word sentences here and there for emphasis.

Yep. That’s right. Try it out!

For a sense of what I’m talking about, check out this passage from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where a very long (but wonderful!) sentence is bracketed by some much shorter ones:

The boys still listened and watched. Presently a revealing thought flashed through Tom’s mind, and he exclaimed:

“Boys, I know who’s drownded—it’s us!”

They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account; tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindness to these poor lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged; and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned. This was fine. It was worth while to be a pirate, after all.

Or for a brisker, snappier feeling, take a look at the opening of this recent Smart Blogger post:

Ah, love.

It’s such an elusive thing.

You want more of it, and yet it’s so hard to find.

We all want those droplets of love that come in the form of more readers, social shares, comments, and emails. As bloggers, we can’t get enough.

But one type of love trumps the rest. It’s the love you can only dream about.

The love of an A-List Blogger.

You’ll have heard the stories…

See how, rather than simply plodding along, these sentences of differing lengths seem to dance?

5. Stick your sentences together like Krazy Glue

Far too many bloggers generate “stream of consciousness” writing…and simply leave it at that, without tweaking their content further.

Remember, though—good writing doesn’t mean simply plonking words down on the page or screen as they come out of your head. You need to connect your sentences to each other so that your readers keep going.

Each thought must lead naturally to the next. Each sentence must create desire for the next. Otherwise your readers will drift away.

Think about biting into a slice of pizza. The hot cheese stretches out as you pull the slice away from your mouth, and you have to nibble your way up the entire string to get to the rest of your pizza. 🙂

Another way to think about it is to imagine each sentence as a mini cliffhanger—you want to compel your readers to move on to the next sentence to find out what happens next!

You can do this in several ways. One is to work on your transitions (and, but, or, since, therefore, etc.) so that we see how your ideas are causally and logically related. (And incidentally, feel free to start sentences with conjunctions when you blog, no matter what your English teachers might have told you.)

For example:

You can definitely improve at sentence-writing. And the best way to do that is to practice.

Notice how you see the word “and” out of the corner of your eye as you’re finishing the first sentence? Suddenly you don’t have the closure that you thought you did, and you feel the urge to read on.

Another way to keep your readers moving from one sentence to the next is to create “open loops” by withholding enough information to make them keep reading:

Mary desired only one thing. She wanted to be taken seriously.

You can also ask questions, which naturally lead the reader to continue in search of the answers.

Why should you hire a tax professional? Because doing so can save you a lot of money.

Another tactic is to start a list, which also keeps the reader moving along from item to item.

Here are four great ways to keep your children busy on rainy days. First, save up old cereal boxes as you empty them…

Take a look at the following paragraph and see if you can identify which of the above techniques are being used and where.

Why should you hire a tax professional? There are three main reasons. The first is that he or she will be up-to-date on any new rules and regulations. The second is that hiring someone to do it all for you saves you precious time. But the last reason is by far the most important. You’re simply leaving money on the table at tax time if you don’t hire a pro.

Did you catch them all?

6. Ruthlessly eradicate any fluff or flab

Make sure that your sentences contain no unnecessary words.

It’s easy to include words that don’t contribute much because when you write a first draft, you’re usually transcribing your sentences straight from your brain as you would speak them out loud…and most conversation is replete with meaningless “filler” words.

First of all, be on the alert for redundancy. Instead of telling us that something is shorter in length, just tell us that it’s shorter.

Secondly, look out for modifiers—words that add to or alter the meaning of another word—that seem to amplify what you’re saying but don’t actually add much. You don’t need to say that something is very pretty—simply saying that it’s pretty does the trick. Even better, go back to point #3 above and be more concrete and precise. Maybe it’s attractive or eye-catching or stunning instead.

That’s not to say you can never use words like very, really, absolutely, etc…just save them for when you truly do need to add some emphasis. (Like I just did with “truly.”)

Watch for overly lengthy phrases that can be tightened up. Don’t tell us that the position of management is that we should start hiring again. Instead, tell us that management’s position is to start hiring again. Or even better, that management will start hiring again.

In short, look for ways to trim the fat from your sentences, leaving them as lean and expressive as possible…no, wait. Leaving them lean and expressive. 🙂

Sentence Yourself to Success

The blogosphere is a harsh, unforgiving environment.

If your words don’t pack a hefty enough punch, they’ll fizzle out and die.

Knowing this, you’re committed to doing what it takes to become a better writer—even if that means returning to fundamentals and focusing on your sentences.

But don’t worry, you’re not starting from scratch.

You’ve been reading—and possibly writing—for many years, and you’ve already got a better head-start on this than you realize. Want to know how I know that?

Because this post made sense to you. You already grasp the ground rules of writing good sentences—you just need to practice thinking about them consciously.

You already know how to assemble sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into posts.

Learn to write great sentences and the effects will ripple through the rest of your writing.

Your paragraphs will become more powerful. Your posts will become, dare I say, more epic.

Now go out there, and practice creating those perfect blocks of meaning.

Then use them to build something truly extraordinary.

About the Author: Michelle Russell is a freelance editor who loves helping her clients bring their sentences to vivid, attention-grabbing life. Check out her website for more information, or come say hello on Facebook.

84 Comments

  1. Kevin Carlton
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:08:44

    Michelle

    First we had teachers telling us to stick to the so-called rules. And now we’ve got MS Word spellchecker doing the same.

    Whenever I run one of my posts through that thing, I repeatedly get warnings my sentences aren’t proper sentences. All because I love breaking them up into fragments.

    I’d much rather MS Word warn me when my writing’s boring.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:22:14

      Kevin–Hah! I know! I always, ALWAYS turn off the “check grammar” function in Word for exactly that reason. 🙂

  2. Josue Valles
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:27:50

    My oh my, what a great post, Michelle!

    I really loved the way you explained the ability to write good sentences – and I totally agree with you. Every sentence has only one purpose:

    To get the first sentence read.

    As Joe Sugarman said once:

    “Every element of copy has just one purpose — to get the first sentence read”.

    “And the purpose of the first sentence is to get the second sentence read,” he
    continued.

    And so on, down a slippery slide that leads to your offer and the sale.

    Have a great day, Michelle.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:27:44

      Hi Josue!

      Yes, I’ve read that quote by Joe Sugarman before, and I agree. Sugarman has always been focused on selling merchandise, of course . . . but I think one of the things that often gets overlooked is that EVERYTHING is sales in one way or another. You may not be selling a product for money, but you’re trying to sell your audience on your ideas. So it’s not a bad idea to take a page out of this legendary copywriter’s book. 🙂

  3. Kevin Duncan
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:36:20

    Hi Michelle,

    First off, welcome back to Boost Blog Traffic! This post fits nicely with the “grammar” post you shared with us previously. 🙂

    Blogging definitely isn’t easy. Some days, it feels as though the longer you’ve been doing it the more difficult it is! These six methods you shared for writing sentences breaks things down quite nicely. Bloggers have no excuse for not incorporating at least one of them in their next post!

    I’ll be tweeting and Facebooking this one shortly, Michelle. Again, great job.

    Hope you have a wonderful day. Enjoy all the comments!

    -Kevin

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:30:40

      Hey, Kevin! Thanks very much! Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks in advance for the shares. And I *will* have a wonderful day responding to all these comments. 🙂

  4. Lisa Kasanicky
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:36:28

    Yes, yes and yes! Great post Michelle!

  5. mohd afri tangilol
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:37:36

    wow,thanks for putting useful guide on this…been struggling for a while now about creating high impact and straight to the point sentences…

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:32:28

      Hi Modh–you’re most welcome, and yes, it is a struggle, even for those of us who have been writing for a long time. But it’s a struggle that always turns out to be worth it in the end, one way or another.

  6. lita
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:40:27

    Superb wisdom here Michelle. I love the nudge to have us use the active tense more and the idea of sentences as links.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:33:21

      Hi Lita! Yes, keep those chain links strong and your sentences will have a lot of “pull”! (Sorry, I can never resist a really bad pun. 🙂 )

  7. The Dog
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:45:00

    Makes for a thoroughly scintillating post! Now, I am getting a print out of the same to pin-up at my study, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:35:47

      You’re welcome . . . and bonus points to you for re-using the words “thoroughly scintillating” to bring back some of the humor from point #1 above–well done!

  8. francis okereke
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:52:40

    interesting post Michelle! learned some stuff I don’t put into consideration any more.

    Good work and keep it up!

  9. Leanne Regalla
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:56:46

    Awesome post, Michelle!

    I particularly like the fact that you give us permission to break the English teachers’ rules. I like breaking rules. 😉

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:37:37

      Thanks, Leanne! And yeah, back in elementary school I bet you were that kid who was always out on the playground until the last possible minute during recess, too. 🙂

      • Leanne Regalla
        Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:30:51

        Yeah, but I also loved diagramming sentences and I can’t believe they don’t teach that anymore! Haha!

      • Michelle Russell
        Aug 13, 2015 @ 13:03:25

        They DON’T????????? Wow . . .

  10. John Maduka
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:57:24

    Hey Michelle,
    I Never know it could be this so much much interesting, which I’m suppose to be here more earlier.

    It looks as if this post was directly talking to me.

    I almost quit Blogging few months ago due to most issues listed above . . But Gladly that i didn’t later make that move, it could have been my greatest mistake – i think .

    Although, I started a new Blog with a lots of Strategics to make much impact on others and also earn a little .

    You just showed me another way to steadfast and live the Life of a Writer for Ever.

    Thank you so much. And I’m glad to be here

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:39:35

      Hey, John!

      Glad you stopped by today and that this post spoke to you so directly.

      Don’t give up! Seriously. Keep on studying everything you learn here at BoostBlogTraffic–and most importantly, keep writing! It’s the people who keep going, a little at a time day after day, who ultimately reach their goals . . . or maybe even places they’d never dreamed of when they set those goals. 🙂

  11. Williesha
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:08:34

    I’m really glad this popped up as I was working on a post for a client! haha A good reminder of the basics, which seem so simple, but are really tough to master.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:40:59

      Hi Williesha–you’re absolutely right. One of my favorite sayings is “Simple doesn’t always mean easy.” But mastering the basics is totally worth the effort. Thanks for stopping by, and for commenting–and good luck on that post for your client!

  12. Zarayna
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:19:07

    Hi Michelle,

    But my fluff and flab are amongst my most attractive features!

    Lovely reminder, particularly for all of us to continually read and write. As with all things, practice makes perfect but – the clincher – with a good and kindly guide like yourself.

    Many thanks – kindest regards.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:42:38

      Okay, Zaranya–I actually did laugh out loud at your comment. 🙂

      You’re very welcome, and thanks for taking the time to say hi and share your thoughts!

  13. Andrew
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:28:26

    Hey Michelle,

    Great post.

    One thing I need to work on is the emotional appeal of my sentences and use power words. That’s somethingthat can obviously be done in the editing stage but I need to work on it more.

    Also, I love the tip about short sentences and long sentences.

    It’s interesting because in school, they tell you that way is wrong.

    But I think over the years, people have become nauseated by long, jumbled sentences and like to see a mixture.

    Excellent post and points and I’ll be trying to implement these effective immediately.

    – Andrew

    P.S. Whoever says blogging is easy is a flat out liar

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 11:48:11

      Hi Andrew!

      It’s true–the world has changed so much (at least here in First World countries, with all our high-tech communication platforms) that people’s attention spans have shortened. It gets tougher and tougher to stay focused on long sentences. You can debate whether that’s good or bad . . . but in the meantime, if you’re a writer, you’d better throw some shorter sentences into the mix so that you don’t try the patience of your audience.

      As far as the emotional aspect of sentence-writing . . . well, that’s often where I have the most fun. It’s where the “juice” is, so to speak. 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  14. David Gillaspie
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:09:43

    Hi Michelle,

    You’ve done a great service here. Too many readers see a book, a story, or even a post, and pass judgement right away. It’s to long, too dense, to precious, then they start reading with the purpose of justifying their first impression and quitting.

    Too many writers get confused by advice telling them to write long, write dense, not so much the precious stuff but it sounds like it.

    Stick to the sentence and you can’t go wrong. Best advice to give. A Hemingway quotes says, “Start by writing one true sentence.” I like that because that once sentence pulls you, the writing pulls you instead of you pushing it.

    And you pulled us along with you. Thanks,

    David

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:55:32

      Hi David!

      You wrote, ” . . . then they start reading with the purpose of justifying their first impression and quitting.”

      And I had to chuckle as I thought, “Yeah. And that’s if they decide to read it at all!”

      I originally cut my teeth on academic writing, and I had to learn an ENTIRELY new way of going about it for the online environment. So I think it’s not so much about writing either short or long (because that can change depending on the context and audience) but about whether you can write **engagingly.** Short attention spans notwithstanding (see my comment to Andrew just above), if you can develop the ability to hook your reader in with each sentence and keep them reading, they’ll follow along no matter how long or short you write.

      It can take quite a while to get that good, but it’s definitely a goal worth shooting for!

  15. Angela Anderson
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:23:14

    Michelle,
    Congrats on the post! I especially appreciated the section on rhythm–an important characteristic I find is too often missing in online writing. Except on BBT of course. 🙂

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:58:37

      Thanks, Angela! And yeah . . . I’m not making any great claims about my own work, but as a general rule, BBT posts are textbook examples of great online writing in terms of rhythm and just about everything else, too. 🙂

  16. Amy Colgan-Niemeyer
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:51:11

    I love this post! So much great information, thanks! It’s always nice to find out new ways to jazz up my writing.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:59:11

      Hi Amy! You’re most welcome–glad you found it helpful!

  17. Luna Darcy
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 12:51:39

    Hi Michelle,

    WOW. This is awesome!

    I can surely improve my writing by using power words (and there are a lot of them) and get my readers attention. Thanks for the great examples you provided and Jon’s full packed post.

    Yes, with practice, perseverance, dedication and hard work, I will be able to write a real “epic” post. And I can’t wait to just do that.

    It’s going to be tough for someone who is just beginning like me, but I know it will be worth it.

    Thanks again and have an awesome day!

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 13:02:15

      Hi Luna!

      You’re just getting started? That’s awesome! You’re at that sweet spot where your inspiration is fresh and your determination is strong. Like I said to John above, don’t give up as you dive in and start writing . . . and writing . . . and writing. All that hard work will pay off, and you’ll be on your way to “epic” faster than you ever thought.

      And yes, don’t forget those power words. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Luna Darcy
        Aug 13, 2015 @ 13:47:52

        Yes, I’ve been blogging for 2 months now so I’m really new to all this. There is so much to learn and so many experts to get advice from. But I find BBT as an excellent source of posts that help me both on the writing and the blogging side.

        I won’t give up and I thank you for your encouragement!

  18. gigi wolf
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 13:22:41

    I think Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer proved the semicolon cannot be eliminated from writing, no more than the penny from financial transactions, or an essential part of a car be taken away; it effects a pause in a thought with a touch of the brakes; the period is the full stop.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 13:30:23

      Oooh, Gigi, I like that “brakes” analogy! I’m a fan of the semicolon when used correctly and not overused–and yes, it’s a lot like tapping the brakes with your toe (but still maintaining forward momentum) rather than coming to a full stop at a red light or a stop sign.

      • gigi wolf
        Aug 14, 2015 @ 00:51:40

        Thanks, guys- I’ve been getting a little high-falutin’, lately-

    • David Throop
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 14:04:58

      Gigi –
      Great analogy about the semi-colon and brakes! I hadn’t thought of it before.

      Michelle,
      Thanks for the post. Like many, I’m always interested in learning, and relearning, the basics of writing.

      Rhythm, length, concrete language are all important elements that lead to the importance of editing!

      A musician works their scales and chord progressions daily. Why as writers don’t we think more like musicians is curious to me. They jam for hours yet when it’s time to record they shorten the measures to be more concise.

      Good writing requires the same.

      Thanks again for the post!

      • Michelle Russell
        Aug 13, 2015 @ 14:41:43

        Hi David–and there you go, bringing in *another* great analogy. 🙂 Yes, sentence practice is like doing our scales and chords.

        Interestingly, I’m reading something right now about getting past the boredom of practice, in which the author also uses practicing music as an example. But his points are relevant to this post, too–if we can get curious and engaged about the details of our own writing process, it will come alive to us and involve less drudgery and more excitement.

        Something to aim for, for sure. 🙂

  19. Krithika Rangarajan
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 14:15:37

    I clicked on the link out of curiosity: How can anyone write an entire blog post on the art of crafting the perfect sentence?

    Well…I apologize for doubting you, Michelle! BRILLIANT

    Thank you
    Kit

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 14:42:36

      Kit–I’m flattered! (*blush*) Thanks for your comment!

  20. Maria Stenvinkel
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 14:47:38

    Awesome post Michelle! Really enjoyed it 🙂

  21. Amy Colgan-Niemeyer
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 14:50:49

    This post and the comments are inspiring. Thank you! I have been writing off and on since I was a kid. I’ve been blogging off and on for several years as well. I love it more than anything else. I love to get lost in writing. Take care, all.

  22. Bruce Harpham
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 16:12:03

    Michelle,

    Yes! Active voice is critical. I appreciate your emphasis on the writing fundamentals. Do you have a favorite non-fiction writer to recommend? I have enjoyed Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell.

    The corporate world emphasizes passive voice writing. It is frustrating to read. Thanks for the reminder to be ACTIVE!

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 18:33:58

      Hey, Bruce–I have so many authors I enjoy! Off the top of my head, I’m thinking about Dan Ariely and “Predictably Irrational,” which was a really fun read. Ask me another day, though, and I’ll probably have a completely different answer. 🙂

  23. Ahmad Fahrurroji
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 18:40:59

    Great post,

    I like to quote from Stephen King says that we must read a lot and write a lot if we want to a writer. I have implemented what he said, so I can improve more my writing skill. I really enjoy it to read this post.

    Thanks.

  24. Julia McCoy
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 20:28:20

    Everything about this post is so awesome. Seriously. You had me at “blogging is easy, they say.. just write epic content.” I think one of your top tips is the first, “Bite-Sized Morsels of Meaning”. Bloggers so often lose their readers when they get long-winded (and yes, I’m probably one of those at times!). Great reminders throughout this entire piece to all levels of bloggers. And this quote is one of the BEST! “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. — Stephen King” Thanks for a great piece, Michelle!

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 23:32:40

      Hi Julia–I KNOW!!!!! As if writing epic content is just that easy. That advice has always gotten to me, too. Glad you found everything so helpful . . . and yes, the Stephen King quote is such an important thing to remember.

      Glad you stopped by and commented!

  25. Anthony Carter
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 21:33:34

    Great post Michelle,

    Great writing is great writing no matter the genre. I am writing sci fi short stories and will use this post to smooth out trouble spots. BBT always gives me the info I need to master my craft.

    Thanks !!!!

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 23:34:07

      Ah, I love sci-fi! Just finished “The Martian” by Andy Weir . . . though I don’t know if I’d want to read it before trying to write any sci-fi of my own–it’s so good, it would be a mighty hard act to follow!

      Best of luck you you, Anthony, as you pen your short masterpieces. 🙂

  26. Iqbal
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 22:45:41

    Hello Michelle,

    This certainly helps beginner like me to write better posts. And I agree with you, blogging is not easy for most of use at least in the beginning. But I’m sure we can all become a good blogger by practicing our writing.

    Thanks for the really good post… oops, wait. Thanks for the great post 🙂

    Iqbal

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 23:35:14

      Hah, Iqbal! Now THERE’S something I like . . . a guy who takes my advice! 🙂 Seriously, thanks for your comment, and happy practicing!

  27. Theodore Nwangene
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 23:37:02

    This is really an epic shit Michelle.
    This is what they usually call a very interesting post. I’ve heard so many writers use the word “Write an EPIC shit” and i usually wonder….. How can one write and epic shit?

    Indeed Stephen King has said it all because the more you read and write, the better you become at it and that’s why i so much love the quote that “We’re what we repeatedly do therefore, success is never an act but a habit” i couldn’t have agreed more to that.

    This is really a very awesome post Michelle, thanks for sharing.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 23:40:54

      Hi Theodore! Thanks for your comment. I like that quote about success being a habit, too, because it’s so true. And yes, I cleaned up the language a little for this post . . . you’re right, they usually tell you to write “epic s**t”. Heh. 🙂

  28. solanki kajal
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 01:44:53

    HI Michelle,

    wow! this is an incredible post ,this will help to learn a lot about Article writeing, I love the nudge to have us use the active tense more and the idea of sentences as links. Thank you for putting all these at one place for easy reference.

    Thank You

    Best Regards

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 14, 2015 @ 11:15:17

      Hi Solanki! Glad it helped. Cheers to you! 🙂

  29. Jessica Blanchard
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 11:03:51

    Michelle,
    This post spooked me out. Just yesterday I realized my sentences were too fluffy. The subject and verbs often got lost in cluttered phrases. So I spent the morning reading a book on grammar — Syn and Syntax. Your post added some very helpful tips. Like how to make readers want to keep reading. I know that is important, but had never found how to do it.

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 14, 2015 @ 11:19:07

      Hi Jessica! What my bio didn’t mention is that I’m actually psychic. Heh. (Just kidding . . . that is kind of spooky!)

      I like the title “Syn and Syntax”–give me a good pun any day. 🙂 I’m flattered that you feel I helped add to what you learned. Ever read “The Elephants of Style” by Bill Walsh? That’s another fun one!

  30. Yazeed
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 14:06:26

    Michelle Russell, I really thank you very much for these valuables, every blogger even the pro ones should read that.

    Best Regards,
    Yazeed.

  31. Sherman Smith
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 15:35:21

    Hey Michelle,

    This post was epic and much needed for me. As I progress as a blogger there are some kinks I need to iron out and improving my sentences are one of those major things that will do the trick. This is definitely worth bookmarking! Thanks for sharing! Have a great weekend!

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 14, 2015 @ 16:45:55

      Hi Sherman! Yep, it’s the small things that will ultimately give you the big gains. Focusing on the fundamentals is (almost) never a bad thing. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, and have a great weekend yourself!

  32. Leo
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 21:52:19

    Really great tips. Writing is not easy. You need to be consistent and people should easily understand what you wrote. Plus it needs to have an interesting factor so that others would share it.

  33. Teri Lissy
    Aug 15, 2015 @ 12:55:26

    Hi Michelle – I just want to say I think you do a great job with your blog. I’m new to blogging and still figuring things out. If you have any tips, advice or input I would really appreciate it. My post is paintinggodslight.com. I have Multiple Sclerosis and use art as therapy Thank you! Teri

    • Michelle Russell
      Aug 15, 2015 @ 14:29:51

      Hi Teri–good for you for getting started! Honestly (and I’m not just saying this because of my guest posts here), I think the best way you can learn about blogging is to pay attention to everything that gets posted here at BoostBlogTraffic. Jon Morrow and all the other contributors are so knowledgeable, I’m always learning new things myself.

      I took a look at your site, and your art is truly beautiful! Keep on painting, please! And if you can continue to blog about it as well, it will give you an even wider audience, which you certainly deserve. 🙂

      Best of luck to you!

  34. Heitem Ak
    Aug 15, 2015 @ 13:26:02

    Great post Michelle!

    Keep them coming!

  35. Michelle Gale
    Aug 15, 2015 @ 21:55:11

    From one Michelle to another…I think you’d appreciate what one of my coaching instructors used to say: “Be of lean expression.”

    She found many occasions on which to say it.

  36. Matthew Kaboomis Loomis
    Aug 16, 2015 @ 16:32:26

    Enjoyed your perspective here as an Editor, Michelle!

    Loved how you mixed examples of strong sentences using classic literary passages and current blog articles.

    Potent.

    I’ll be sharing this one. Thanks and have a stellar week!

  37. Shamsudeen
    Aug 17, 2015 @ 03:22:43

    Hi Michelle,

    Nicely structured content parked with lots of useful actionable piece of advice.

    Glad you laid it bare open, “blogging is no easy”, contrary to what most of us where sold when getting started with this crazy thing called “blogging”.

    Without that kind of content that wakes readers up at night to read what you have to say, building a successful blogging career may seems like climbing Mount-Everest.

    This is why writing great sentences that ultimately leads to reading the next is a most for any serious aspiring blogger.

    Thanks Michelle, nice reading.

  38. Donna Scott
    Aug 17, 2015 @ 23:44:00

    Michelle, thank you for this article. Very helpful to a beginner like me! 🙂

  39. Ronn Jerard
    Aug 17, 2015 @ 23:52:44

    Michelle,

    Thank you for this valuable and eye-opening post. I immediately went back to remove the fluff from some articles I wrote n the past. I’ll keep doing that and apply your wise nuggets to everything I write.

  40. Rajkaran Singh
    Aug 18, 2015 @ 00:17:44

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for sharing these useful tips. When I started blogging last year I was not good in sentence writing(still learning). Your article is going to help me a lot. Visited your site. Its awesome. Shall keep learning from you.

  41. Ion Doaga
    Aug 18, 2015 @ 00:52:38

    Hi Michelle,

    I saw a few guest posts of your through the web and I litteraly fell in love with your writting.

    Today, you’ve reminded about the importance of basic english grammar rules. I’m not a native english speaker and I liked when bloggers are saying that I need to forget what I learned at school. Now, I understand that was writing long sentences which are hard to digest. This post is an “A-HA” for me. I’m glad you wrote it.

    Thanks!

  42. Yordi
    Aug 18, 2015 @ 04:35:17

    Thank you Michelle,

    This post is very helpful. Writing better sentences is something I really need to work on. Also, I have a bit of a language barrier since I am dutch and blog in English.

    Cheers,

    Yordi

  43. Crafty Girl
    Aug 18, 2015 @ 13:26:33

    I am very bad in English because my mother tongue is Malay Language. Your article helped me a lot in writing in English. Thank you.

  44. Dhruv tiwari
    Aug 21, 2015 @ 12:53:07

    Fantastic points altogether, writing is really tough for me, but if I do it again an again and again, then I know my writing style will be change, and my writing attitude also,
    Thanx for this great post 🙂
    Regards
    Dhruv

  45. Linda Schrier
    Aug 24, 2015 @ 15:09:24

    Hi Michelle,

    This post has opened up my eyes to the real reason we write.

    The first thing I did when I read your post, I remembered school and the meaning of a subject and a verb.

    I am not the best writer in the world but I do my best.

    Thank you for sharing, Michelle and you have a wonderful week!

    Linda

  46. Heather
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 07:16:00

    Hi Michelle,
    I love this post. It demonstrates beautifully the kind of writing that draws readers in.

    I’ve two kids in school, and I wish they were taught sentence construction in such an illuminating way (instead of the old style explanations of subjugation and the like, which are important, but send them to sleep. Rather like those tires humming on the freeway that you mentioned).

    I’ll definitely be tweeting this one out and sharing.

  47. Aderemi Dare
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 18:47:14

    Hi Michelle,

    Writing blog post can be frustrating at first but the more content you write the more you get used to it. While the magic to held every single visitors coming to your blog as a constant reader is in the content you create, then every word counts.

    Writing a truly great sentences can help your blog rank high in search engines as well as drive traffic to your blog.

    Thanks for the informative post.

  48. Jeanna Delfin
    Aug 29, 2015 @ 00:55:05

    Learning is life-long for me.

    Thank you so much for the tips! I love this site, and I would highly recommend your content to anyone. I am certainly aiming to become a better blogger.

  49. Suzy VanDyke
    Aug 31, 2015 @ 17:26:49

    Thanks so much for this helpful blog post Michelle! (I originally wrote “super helpful” and then trimmed the fat 😉 Just signed up for your blog, excited for you! Hugs, Suzy

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