Writing Class: the Simple Sentence Structure

Today, class, let’s talk about sentence structure.

I could have written, “Sentence structure is the subject I’d like us to talk about.” But that’s not nearly as straightforward as, “Let’s talk about sentence structure.”

Subject-verb-object. Or subject-predicate, since a sentence can consist of only a subject and verb (“You rock!”). Either way, it’s called the simple sentence structure.

“Christians love potlucks.” That’s as clear as it gets.

Yoda would say, “Love potlucks Christians do.” Cute, but not as clear.

Don’t use the simple sentence structure all the time, or your writing will feel choppy. I’ve come across folks who did that. As an editor, I had to mess up their relentlessly straightforward prose to inject rhythm and flow. You need rhythm and flow. But when you’ve got a key point to emphasize, something you want to make utterly understandable to readers, express it with subject-verb-object.

In emails, I always state a request using a simple sentence. Hanging phrases and clauses around the request, with multiple commas, just blurs the request. Likewise with important points in letters, on our websites, etc.

“I’d like to have lunch with you next week.”

Versus: “I don’t know what your schedule looks like, but if you’re interested and available, I would really appreciate the chance to have lunch with you sometime–say, next week?”

A request presented in a short, simple sentence is less likely to be overlooked. Rather, it’ll jump out at people.

Having said that, let me allow you, should you be so inclined, to leave. Or more directly: You are dismissed.

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The Tea Party is Playing Games with My Money


At the end of the Bush presidency, we had that big market crash. I remember meeting with our investment guy and learning that my 401K had lost tens of thousands of dollars. Same with Pam’s retirement funds.

Well, since then our funds have steadily climbed back up–not to where they were, but they’ve been doing well. I know, the right-wing pundits tell us the economy is terrible terrible terrible under Obama. All I know is, our funds have been rebuilding, and we’re pleased.

But that could all come crashing down–again–next week. For our funds, and for your’s, too.

The Republicans are threatening to not extend the debt limit unless certain demands are made. Obama’s “gun to the head” metaphor is totally appropriate. “Unless you defund Obamacare, we’ll shoot the economy.” Some of the more irresponsible and ignorant Republicans are even saying that the debt limit is no big deal–that the US can forego paying its bills, and that the US credit rating can drop, and the economy will continue on just fine.

Tell that to my retirement account next week. Tell that to me after, again, Pam and I lose loses thousands and thousands of dollars of value because of Republican irresponsibility.

Thank you, Tea Party. Thank you, Ted Cruz.

I have no–zero, zilch, nada–patience for the Tea Party. Not so much a problem with their goals as with their attitude of all-or-nothing. They will never be satisfied.

A couple years ago, Obama and Boehner agreed to a deal that would have cut the deficit by 5 trillion. But when Boehner took it back to the House, the Tea Party wing killed it. They wanted more. This past Sunday, Boehner admitted to George Stephanopolous that he and the Senate had reached a deal some weeks ago that would have averted the government shutdown. But then they added defunding Obamacare, and now here we are. Boehner no doubt took the deal back to the House, and the Tea Party wing killed it, again.

It doesn’t matter what kind of a deal is reached with the President. The Tea Party will not be satisfied. They’ll always want more, and unless they get absolutely everything they could possibly want, they’ll be afraid of being accused of compromising.

It reminds me of anti-abortion legislation during the 1980s, when pro-life Congressman wouldn’t settle for compromises on abortion. I heard a very upset pro-life Congressman from that time say something like this: “We could have saved hundreds of thousands of babies, but the hardliners wouldn’t settle for anything less than saving ALL babies. And the result–we didn’t get anything. We should have saved the hundreds of thousands NOW, and then continued working to save the rest.”

The all-or-nothing mentality never works in divided government. It’s about compromise, about give-and-take. But that’s the mentality of the Tea Party.

And it’s why, sometime after next week when the US defaults on its debt, Pam and I will loses thousands and thousands of dollars of value in our retirement accounts.

Oh–and so will you. Even if you’re a big Tea Party supporter, you will lose, too.

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Healthcare.gov is Sick

I’m still unable to login to my account (assuming it was successfully created) at Healthcare.gov. Today I had some error messages I hadn’t seen before, so maybe that is progress. I think CNN should begin sending out a Breaking News Alert every time somebody successfully signs up for insurance. Just so we know it’s possible.

Healthcare.gov’s motto: “We’re not shutdown, but might as well be.”

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30 Kramers


Two great political analogies during the “Winners and Losers” segment of the October 5 Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Seth Myers said pf John Boehner having to deal with his Tea Party Congressmen: “You’re like Seinfeld if there were 30 Kramers.”

Co-anchor Cecily Strong then said of the problems on the Healthcare.gov website:
“You can’t campaign on the fact that millions don’t have healthcare, and then be surprised that millions don’t have healthcare. How can you not be ready? It’s like 1-800-FLOWERS getting caught off guard by Valentines Day.”

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Trying Not to Offend


At break, we were talking about team mascot names. Why, one person asked, do we permit insensitivity to Nordic people by allowing a team to call itself the Vikings?

My high school was the Redskins, pretty much the only ethnic group NOT represented at my central-California mutt of a school. But today, no team would choose “Redskins” or other names which represent a people group in some way. Not PC.

It was suggested we could name all teams after animals. But then PETA would get upset.

So I suggested inanimate objects. You could have the Boston Doornobs. The Kansas City Spatulas. The Detroit Vacant Lots. The Minnesota Refrigerators. Stuff like that. Countless possibilities. Who could possibly be offended? And think of the merchandising possibilities?

Our local Fort Wayne baseball team is the Tin Caps, a name which offends nobody except the ghost of Johnny Appleseed.

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Long Before Ted Cruz, Giants Walked Among Us



I identified as Republican most of my life. However, the Tea Party base now rules the day, and moderates like me are persona non grata. Of late, even John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Coburn are being blasted as not pure enough.

I think of all the remarkable Republicans I’ve admired, or at least respected, over the years. Some were true giants.

Howard Baker.
Mark Hatfield,.
Richard Lugar.
John Danforth.
Orrin Hatch.
Alan Simpson.
Lamar Alexander.
Bob Dole.
Elizabeth Dole.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Ronald Reagan.
John Ashcroft.
James Baker.
Rudy Guiliani.
Nancy Kassebaum.
William Cohen.
Warren Rudman.
Pete Wilson.
Dan Quayle.
Nelson Rockefeller.
George HW Bush.
Colin Powell.
Barry Goldwater.
Arlen Specter.
Phil Gramm.
Gerald Ford.
Richard Shelby.
Olympia Snowe.
Jack Kemp.
Kay Bailey Hutchison.
John Connolly.
George Romney.
Dwight Eisenhower….

I miss those folks.

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Scratching, Spitting, and the Designated Hitter

A friend, a student of baseball, tried to explain to me the difference between the American League and the National League. This, as I told him, is beyond my threshold of caring. However I think I now understand the difference.

The American League players scratch their behinds, and the National League players scratch…the other side. This is a time-honored tradition, and baseball is all about time-honoring. And spitting, of course. My friend also said something about a silly rule called “designated hitter,” which he considered central to the differences between the leagues, but I lost interest.

I’m sure there are many other distinctions between the leagues, such as preferred chewing tobacco and nuanced bat-tapping-on-cleats rituals. But at my advanced stage of life, when it comes to baseball, scratching and itching is as much interest as I can muster.

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Healthcare Website: Not Ready for Prime Time


They goofed big-time with the sign-up process at Healthcare.gov. I went through the registration process twice last night, yet still couldn’t log in. I tried both accounts this morning, and still no luck. Says my username or password are wrong, and I KNOW they aren’t. So I created a third account this morning…same thing. I’m rapidly approaching the definition of insanity.

These are not fatal flaws–just technical glitches that can be fixed. But it’s a PR fiasco in getting Obamacare started. I’m sure millions of users are frustrated. And the wait times are unacceptable. Makes me seriously wonder, considering the virulence of the opposition, if some high-tech sabotage is occurring.

My interest is only curiosity. The exchanges are for the minority of people who either don’t have insurance or who buy insurance on their own. Most of us get insurance through our work, and it’s generally better insurance than the exchanges offer. But I did want to compare costs, out of curiosity, and so far I’ve not been able to get that far.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of time. Obamacare coverage doesn’t start until January 1, and people can sign up through March. Hopefully they’ll fix the site to allow for the traffic, which should have been expected and is totally capable of being handled.

Having said that–I’ve been using the Healthcare.gov website for several weeks to do research. It’s well designed, very user friendly, easy to navigate, and clearly written. The sign-up screens are very user-friendly. I’m quite impressed overall. I experienced no problems until October 1, when the sign-up began. They just have some major functionality and bandwidth issues with the enrollment process.

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Washington Weakness


Several days ago on Morning Joe, Jim VandeHei of Politico made an interesting observation which has stayed with me. He mentioned two dynamics which contribute to our problems in Washington.

First, all of our leaders are weak.

  • President Obama is weak.
  • John Boehner is terribly weak as Speaker, always looking over his shoulder.
  • Nancy Pelosi was a fairly strong Speaker, but now has little influence.
  • In the Senate, Harry Reid radiates wimpishness,.
  • Minority leader Mitch McConnell is running scared of being primaried.

So there are no strong leaders, only weak persons in positions of leadership.

Second, all of these persons dislike each other.

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Slow-down Amidst the Shutdown

The anti-Obamacare folks are having a party pointing out problems with the healthcare.gov website. And they have a point. Never in the history of the internet has excessive traffic caused a brand new website, on its first day, to slow down or crash.

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