The Grammar Doctor


Effective sentences emphasize the the part of the sentence idea which is most important. Important parts can be emphasized by repetition and by position in the structure of the sentence. Key words can be emphasized by repetition.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Emphasis can be achieved by repetition of structure.

The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. Rights of Man, Thomas Paine

A passage that repeats both a word and a structure puts strong emphasis on the word.

It is defeat that turns bone to flint; it is defeat that turns gristle to muscle; it is defeat that makes men invincible. "Royal Truths," Henry Ward Beecher

The beginning of a sentence is an emphatic position. That is one of the reasons that an active verb is usually more effective than a passive verb. With an active verb the actor is in the subject position at the beginning of the sentence. A passive verb, however, can be used effectively if the writer wants to emphasis the thing acted upon rather than the actor.

Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above it. Washington Irving

In a longer sentence the ending is also emphatic. The opening of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address emphasizes the equality of all men.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Parallel structure emphasizes. When the parallel structures are similar in length and movement, the sentence is called balanced. A balanced sentence gives strong emphasis, particularly in comparisons and contrasts.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. "Inaugural Address," John F. Kennedy

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom. "Inaugural Address," John F. Kennedy

Where there's marriage without love, there will be love without marriage. Poor Richard, Benjamin Franklin

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