Today is the anniversary of the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1794 farmers in western Pennsylvania rebelled against a federal tax on liquor by tarring and feathering tax collectors and torching their homes. It was one of the first tests of federal authority for the young United States. In response to the uprising, President George Washington called in more than 12,000 Federal troops.
The rebels put up little residance, fleeing to hide in the woods. Twenty were captured, and one man died while in prison. Only two of the rebels were convicted of treason, and both of these men where eventual pardoned by Washington (1).
There is a long tradition of sin taxes in America, and it may be a bad pun, but on what other day can you celebrate the syntax of English sentences?
Syntax is simply the way writers put together phrases and clauses to make sentences. Knowledge of syntax helps writers create more varied sentences. For example, variety in sentence openings is an important feature of good writing. Starting with the subject is a natural feature of English sentences, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, if every one of your sentences begins with the subject, your writing will sound monotonous and lifeless.
Three effective methods for adding variety to sentence openings are using prepositional phrases, participial phrases, and dependent clauses. Let's look at how you can manipulate a sentence's syntax to open in a variety of ways.
I. Open with a Prepositional Phrase: These phrases begin with a preposition and end with a nouns, such as: on the roof, over the rainbow, in the garden, from the city, out the window.
Original Sentence: The students gathered in the cafeteria to watch the multimedia presentation on dental hygiene.
Revised sentence, opening with a prepositional phrase: In the cafeteria, the students gathered to watch the multimedia presentation on dental hygiene.
II. Open with a Participial Phrase: These phrases begin with a verb in the -ing form that describes the subject of the sentence, such as, eating a sandwich, mailing a letter, or singing a song.
Original Sentence: Bill killed time waiting for his dentist appointment by reading a magazine article on effective flossing techniques.
Revised Sentence, opening with a participial phrase: Reading a magazine article on effective flossing techniques, Bill killed time waiting for his dentist appointment.
III. Open with a Dependent Clause: These clauses contain both a subject and a verb and begin with a subordinating conjunction, such as: after he ate lunch, because she missed the quiz, or after she read the novel.
Original Sentence: Max likes to play Ping-Pong, so he never leaves home without his paddle.
Revised Sentence, opening with a dependent clause: Because Max likes to play Ping-Pong, he never leaves home without his paddle.
Today's Challenge: No Sin Syntax
Revise the sentences below so that they begin with the designated opening.
1. Josh ran a record mile in his sweaty bowling shoes. (Open with a prepositional phrase).
2. Mary thought about how to finish her project. She sat in the living room. (Open with a participial phrase)
3. The teacher announced that the test was cancelled. The class cheered. (Open with a dependent clause)
Quote of the Day: Those who prefer their English sloppy have only themselves to thank if the advertisement writer uses his mastery of the vocabulary and syntax to mislead their weak minds. --Dorothy L. Sayers
1. In his sweaty bowling shoes, Josh ran a record mile.
2. Sitting in the living room, Mary thought about how to finish her project.
3. When the teacher announced that the test was cancelled, the class cheered.
1 - Whiskey Rebellion Begins. This Day in History - Wall Street. The History Channel.
2 - Backman, Brian. Thinking in Threes: The Power of Three in Writing. Fort Collins, Colorado: Cottonwood Press, Inc., 2005.