What's covered in this post
You need a good foundation in grammar to curate and intentionally use your style. So, we are embarking on the Grammar 101 section of the Style Series. This week we’re going to learn all about the 7 basic sentence patterns.
Be patterns involve any verbs derived from the infinitive “to be.” They include is, am, are, were, was, been, and being. Being Verbs have a bad reputation as weak verbs, but when used correctly, they can be powerful. There are two basic sentence patterns that use being verbs:
In the first pattern, the being verb is followed by an adverbial . An adverbial is any structure that modifies a verb. But in this pattern, it is usually an adverbial of time or place, or answers the questions When? or Where?
Example: She is in the chair.
She + is + in the chair = Subject + Be + Place Adverbial (where)
In the second pattern, the being verb is followed by a subject complement, which is either an adjective or a noun phrase called a referent. Referents rename the subject while adjectives describe the subject.
Examples: The playroom is a mess.
The playroom + is + a mess = Subject + Be + Referent
The playroom is messy.
The playroom + is + messy. = Subject + Be + Adjective
Linking verb pattern
Linking verbs are all verbs other than “to be” that are completed by a subject complement, such as taste, smell, feel, become, remain, look, appear, seem, and prove. There is only one basic sentence pattern that utilizes linking verbs:
But the linking verbs still serve different functions. The sensory-based linking verbs (taste, smell, etc.) usually link the subject to an adjective.
Example: This book smells amazing.
This book + smells + amazing = Subject + Linking Verb + Adjective
Other linking verbs, such as become and remain, link a noun to a referent.
Example: This house remains a mess.
This house + remains + a mess = Subject + Linking Verb + Referent
Intransitive verb pattern
An intransitive verb is an action verb (also considered a “strong” verb) that doesn’t take a direct object, such as ran, jump, laugh, and bark. Therefore, the intransitive verb pattern is the simplest pattern.
Example: The T-rex ran.
The T-rex + ran = Subject + Intransitive Verb
Transitive verb patterns
Like intransitive verbs, transitive verbs are action verbs. But transitive verbs take a direct object, which is a noun phrase that answers the question of What? or Whom? There are three basic sentence patterns that use transitive verbs:
In the first pattern, the transitive verb and direct object complete each other. You don’t need anything else to understand the core sentence.
Example: We eat pizza.
We + eat + pizza = Subject + Transitive Verb + Direct Object
In the second pattern, an indirect object completes the meaning of the sentence. An indirect object refers to whatever receives the direct object, or whomever the action is performed for.
Example: TikTok gave many writers a community.
TikTok + gave + many writers + a community = Subject + Transitive Verb + Indirect
Object + Direct Object
In the third pattern, an object complement follows the direct object. Like a subject complement, an object complement is a noun or phrase. But an object complement describes the direct object.
Example: My son calls quesadillas piñatas.
My son + calls + quesadillas + piñatas = Subject + Transitive Verb + Direct Object +
Exercise 2: Identifying Your Sentence Patterns
What's covered in this post
What is writing style?
This is because Writing Style has more to do with rhetoric than grammar. Rhetoric is how an author uses diction, sentence structure, punctuation, and sentence and paragraph arrangement to convey emotion, evoke empathy, form a logical path of thought, and create narrators and characters that readers will trust.
The 4 Elements of Style
While an author’s style may vary from project to project, it will remain consistent and recognizable overall. An author creates their writing style through the following elements:
(1) Sentence length and complexity is the most basic aspect of style, in that it is the most recognizable. When you open a book or look at your writing, you can tell at a glance whether you use shorter or longer sentences, and simple or more complex sentences. The punctuation gives it away. More commas, dashes, parentheses, and semicolons are an indication you use longer, more complex sentences. You'll see a lot of ending punctuation marks (periods, exclamation points, question marks) if you use shorter, more simple sentences. You're going to have a variety of both, but you will notice that you're more likely to use a complex over a simple sentence.
(3) Word choice focuses not only on the connotation and denotation but also on the word size and how you create compounds.
(4) Favorite figures of speech (schemes and tropes) are how you add embellishment and decorate your prose, although that is not their sole function. Schemes involve the transference of word order, and tropes involve the transference of meaning. We'll be discussing the different types of schemes and tropes later in this series, but some examples of schemes include polysyndeton (many conjunctions), parallelism, and elision. Some examples of tropes are: metaphor, puns, and personification.
4 Factors that affect Style
While the above four elements remain consistent overall and therefore recognizable, your Writing Style varies from project to project through the following four factors:
Exercise 1: Sentence length and complexity
As an author, one of the most important things you can learn is how to describe and practice your unique writing style. This not only helps you use your writing style more intentionally, but it also enables you to discuss your choices with your editor.
So beginning in June, I'm going to post a series on Writing Style.
What you'll learn in this series
Each post will include a breakdown of the week's topic, a link to my TikTok, and an exercise. Currently, I'm planning on the exercises to build off one another. The goal is that, at the end of the series, you'll understand your writing style and be able to describe it to others.
Sarah Hawkins is a geek for the written word. She's an author and freelance editor who seeks to promote and uplift the authors around her.