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Sentence Openers

SENTENCE OPENERS

By Mary Duffy with Marciano Guerrero

2009 Mary Duffy with Marciano Guerrero. You may not copy, reproduce, post or forward this book 1
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Sentence Openers

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO SENTENCE OPENERS ................................3

CHAPTER 2 VERBAL SENTENCE OPENERS ..............................................6


Defining the Verbals.......................................................................................................................................6

Infinitives as Openers.....................................................................................................................................7

Present Participles (Verbs Ending in ing) Used as Sentence Openers.................................................11

Prepositions Followed by Present Participles (ing) Used as Sentence Openers..................................12

Past Participles Used as Sentence Openers................................................................................................14

CHAPTER 3 SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS AS SENTENCE


OPENERS............................................................................................................19

CHAPTER 4 COORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS AS SENTENCE OPENERS


..............................................................................................................................25

CHAPTER 5 SIMILES AS SENTENCE OPENERS........................................27

CHAPTER 6 PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES AS SENTENCE OPENERS......31

CHAPTER 7 ABSOLUTE PHRASES AS SENTENCE OPENERS ...............35

CHAPTER 8 CORRELATIVE CONJUNCTIONS AS OPENERS...................37

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Sentence Openers

Chapter 1 Introduction to Sentence Openers


If technique is of no interest to a writer, I doubt that the writer is an artist.
Marianne Moore

The adjective is the enemy of the noun.


Voltaire

Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and Id have the facts.


Scout, in To Kill a Mockinbird

Americans speech, or to be more precise, speech habits that most use from cradle
to grave, follow a strong pattern that often impedes them from writing well crafted
sentences.

Kay shaved her hair.

Subject (Kay), verb (shaved), and Object (her hair): S-V-O

When people write, they bring their speech habits into writing. That is why so
much of the English newspaper articles, essays, journals, legal briefs, and fiction that we
read today are so soporific, even though the themes might be interesting. Just imagine
your reading a lengthy paragraph full of these S-V-O sentences.

How many times have you, as a reader, found yourself putting a book down,
never to pick it up again? Countless times Id say. And all because many writers tend to
write as they speak.

People in general are unwilling to give up life-time habits, even knowing that they
have to be forsaken. Are you a writer that clings to the S-V-C pattern of writing? If so,
you arent alone for sure, you are in the company of legions of writers who do just that.

In fact, the great philosopher Socrateswho by the way never wrote a book
decried writing as a deceptive invention, and loved to spend countless hours at the agora
gabbing, arguing, and speechifying until his wife Xantippe would send someone to fetch
him.

Socrates fear was that wisdom would ultimate reside in books rather than in the
mind or in live dialectics. In Platos dialogue Phaedrus, the god Thoth, the inventor of
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Sentence Openers

writing, is accused of encouraging mental laziness. And, because poets, rhapsodes,


actors, dancers, declaimers, and artists in general told lies by means of their speech, Plato
included them in the city of luxury, but cast them out of his ideal Republic.

Likewise, Francis Bacon, the great Elizabethan courtier and scholar, identified
prejudices of the mind and speech as Idols of the Cave impediments to true
knowledge. But it was gossip and false testimony, in particular, what gained him a year in
the London Tower; thus, he went on to write many books instead.

The moral being: beware of speech.

As it turned out, today we realize that writing and books have become the
warehouses of wisdom. It is with the written word that wisdom is created, preserved, and
expanded in the different levels of human endeavor. Even symbolic logic and
mathematics need the written word to lock and secure exact meanings. Scientists use
language to put forth their discoveries, their insights, and to falsify or verify them
empirically. Philosopher Jacques Derrida sees in writing-in-general an entire system that
nourishes the human racearchi-criture.

But by writing in the same way that we speak, we take the easiest path to writing
the path of least resistanceand end up overusing the soporific pattern John hit the
ball. Theres neither elegance nor eloquence in boring and disrespecting your reader
with the S-V-O pattern.

Follow this excerpt:

She would not tell me what I wanted to know if she had wanted to. She
would not take the time to even verify his date of birth. She was wide-
eyed, blond haired, in her mid twenties, and obviously bored at the job.
Her friends had nicknamed her Bambi. I gathered that much,
because she greeted my every request with the haunted look of a dear
caught in the headlights. She said no to everything. I finally gave up. I
kept thinking that people like that exist only to make my life miserable.

The S-V-O pattern gets old in no time. Based on this, Ive concluded that a
serious writer should think carefully about opening a sentence with a noun or a pronoun
of any kind, be they definite, indefinite, or possessive.

That is not to say that the S-V-O pattern isnt useful, or that it should never be
used. What we advocate is that writers limit their use in opening sentences.

To anticipate objections, I will bring up one counter example: the opening lines of
Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of


a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

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Sentence Openers

Isnt It a pronoun and didnt Jane Austen write that famous sentence opener? My
answer is that unless you can prove that you can write better than her and sell more books
than heryou shouldnt do it. Even worse, you shouldnt even think about opening your
sentences with variations of the verb To be, such as (It is, It was, or It was not until).

As I said before, although you wont totally abandon the old pattern, you will see
as you read this guide that there are more interesting ways to express thoughts. And
as you adopt our techniques, you will combine them with the S-V-O pattern to achieve a
more rhythmic, graceful style.

Mature writers in particular those considered literary writers are aware of the
monotony of the S-V-O pattern and watch their sentence openers with uncompromising
passion. By mixing their sentence openers with the S-V-O pattern, they add emphasis,
variety, and rhythm to their writing.

Lets recognize that speech and prose are different. Speech is instantaneous,
fleeting, and ethereal; prose is lasting, fixed, and earthly. However, our techniques used
often enough will positively impact your speech, making it livelier and bringing you
more rapt attention.

With a quick rearrangement of the S-V-O pattern, master fiction writers may
create an expectation, prodding the reader to move to the next sentence and on to the next
paragraph. And you need not become a grammatical genius just a writer with an open
mind whos undaunted by grammatical labels.

Sentence Openers may be grouped as follows:

Verbal Openers: infinitives, present participle (ing), and past participle

Subordinating Conjunctions as Openers

Coordinating Conjunctions as Openers

Prepositional Phrases as Openers

Similes as Openers

Absolutes as Openers

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Sentence Openers

Chapter 2 Verbal Sentence Openers


If the reader finds the following sentence opener:

Zigzagging and weaving around

Without even mentioning a subject, the author shapes an image in the readers
mind, who has no choice but to race ahead to see what it is that is moving in such
fashion. The participialsforms of verbs ending in , -ed, or -tzigzagging and weaving
not only reflect movement, but also create an expectation, and an incentive to satisfy
curiosity. And that is what all authors strive for; that is, to keep the reader busy, curious,
guessing what falls next.

Scott Fitzgerald in a letter to his daughter quoted a verse from Keats poem Eve
of Saint Agnes, to point out how verb-participials move and carry the sentence:

The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass

When one hears an imperative, one pays attention, as in when one hears: Dont
do that! Even when the command is subdue and conversational, the reader pays
attention, as when Herman Melville draws the reader to his monumental Moby Dick with:
Call me Ishmael.

Verbs and verbals pack and unleash a unique type energy that other parts of
speech dont.

Defining the Verbals

Verbals are verb forms that are used not as verbs, but as:

Nouns (gerunds and infinitives)


The General was fired for retreating.
To cook was an annoyance.

Adjectives (participles and infinitives)


Flying planes may be dangerous.
The Senator had no reason to lie.

Adverbs (infinitives)
She went to bat.
She dressed to kill.

That verbals are powerful as sentence openers theres no doubt. Yet, many writers
even successful writersprefer to pepper their writing with proper adjectives and
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Sentence Openers

adverbs. In my view, the verb is king; and like in the game of Chess all others pieces,
though important, they are so only in relation to the king.

If we employ the verb to be continuously, it is a sign of weak writing. So, to


make your writing strong, we urge you to follow this simple guideline: prefer verbals and
strong verbs; avoid weak verbs [see glossary].

And even when using to be as a copula, find a way to buttress it with verbals.
Scott Fitzgerald made an entry in a notebook, which shows his preoccupationor
obsession, one might saywith verbs:

Forgotten is forgiven

Verbals come in different forms and they are all effective because they include a
verb form. So strong are these verbals that master writers use them not only to open
sentences, but also to open paragraphseven books.

Infinitives as Openers

There are two forms to the Infinitive:

To Infinitive: The Jamaicans are expected to win.

Bare Infinitives: The Jamaicans could win.

Bare Infinitives usually follow modals such as could and would.

The infinitive form of the verb has no time spanpast, present, or futureand it
is never conjugated.

Only To Infinitives may be used as sentence openers:

To love with ones soul and leave the rest to fate, was the simple rule
she heeded (Nabokov 40).

To wind up the last scene of thy tragedy, CRUELTY and


COWARDICE, twin ruffians, hired and set on by MALICE in the dark,
shall strike together at all thy infirmities and mistakes (Stern 20).

To prove that he was still a sound and freethinking stalwart, Elmer


went out with Jim one evening and at considerable effort, they carried
off a small outhouse and placed it on the steps of the Administration
Building (Lewis 37).

To paraphrase Hamlet, The serpent that did sting thy fathers life, his
crown wants to wear (Guerrero 115).

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Sentence Openers

To prepare a shirt for pressing she sprinkled it with water and left it
rolled up in a towel (Franzen 265).

Samuel Beckett, in Molloy, achieves a mocking and sarcastic tone by his precise
use of infinitives:

To throw him in the hole was all I could have done, and I would have
done it gladly (13).

To say I stumbled in impenetrable darkness, no, I cannot. I stumbled,


but the darkness was not impenetrable (83).

To cut a long story short he wanted to know if I had seen an old man
with a stick pass by (151).

In dispensing advice to writers victimized by critics, Anthony Trollope displays


both To and Bare infinitives in his Autobiography:

If injustice be done him, let him bear it. To do so is consonant with the
dignity of the position which he ought to wish to assume. To shriek
and scream and sputter, to threaten actions, and to swear about the
town that he has been belied and defamed in that he has been accused
of bad grammar or a false metaphor, of a dull chapter, or even of a
borrowed heroine, will leave on the minds of the public nothing but a
sense of irritated impotence. (Trollope 267).

The Spanish philosopher, critic, and essayist Jose Ortega y Gasset, was a great
stylist (in the Spanish language). Heres a translated example of how he closed his essay
The Self and the Other, collected in his book The Dehumanization of Art:

To excel the past we must not allow ourselves to lose contact with it;
on the contrary, we must feel it under our feet because we have raised
ourselves upon it (204).

Note that Infinitives may also be used, as sentence openers, in negative form:

Not to inhibit her in any way, he noddedto show his approvaland


changed the subject.

Not to smile respectfully at the very mention of the prefects name


passes for recklessness in the minds of the peasants of Franche-Comte
(Stendhal 88).

Notice how a master writerNathaniel Hawthorne1 in The Blithedale Romance


brings to bear the full force of both To and Bare infinitives:

1 Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, where after his graduation from
Bowdoin College in Maine, he wrote the bulk of his masterful tales and major romances such as The
Scarlett Letter.
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Sentence Openers

To bake, to boil, to roast, to fry, to stewto wash, and iron, and


scrub, and sweep, and at our idler intervals, to repose ourselves on
knitting and sewingthese, I suppose, must be feminine occupations
for the present (16).

And from Norman Vincent Peales The Power of Positive Thinking:

To restrain grief, to inhibit it, to bottle it up, is to fail to use one of


Gods means for eliminating the pressure of sorrow (196).

To depict a tedious, static, and to some extent suffocating scene in Jane Eyre,
Charlotte Bronte uses a series of infinitives:

I did not like re-entering Thornfield. To pass its threshold was to


return to stagnation; to cross the silent hall, to ascend the darksome
staircase, to seek my own lonely little room, and then to meet tranquil
Mrs. Fairfax, and spend the long winter evening with her, and her only,
was to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened by my walkto slip
again over my faculties the viewless fetters of an uniform and too still
existence; of an existence whose very privileges of security and ease I
was becoming incapable of appreciating (Bronte 12).

Or to project a state of being and enchantment, as we read in Nikos Kazantzakis


Zorba the Greek:

To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To take
part in the Christmas festivities and, after eating and drinking well, to
escape on your own far from all the snares, to have the stars above, the
land to your left and the sea to your right: and to realize of a sudden
that, in your heart, life has accomplished it final miracle: it has become
a fairy tale (Kazantzakis 118).

Verbs express action, change, and motion, and their abundant usein infinitive
form or conjugated formcarry the narration with kinetic force. Although the Infinitive
form is much less active than conjugated forms, it still packs a punch, despite the fact that
it is used mainly to provide explanations or justifications.

The Perfect Infinitive, being that it is formed with the auxiliary verb to have, is a
sluggish form and should be avoided in scenes that require action; it may, however, be
used to project a serious, solemn tone:

To have done so unless he intended to marry her was a terrible thing


and damnable beyond belief.

In this section weve treated the infinitive as sentence openers only. But aside
from this function, the infinitive has a dozen other usessome of which I will mention
since they add strength and vitality to the narrative.

To express orders or commands:


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Sentence Openers

The witness is to stay for further questioning.

Youre not to leave till I come back!

To express purpose (with or without the optional in order):

He joined the Navy to see the world.

We moved to Tokyo to learn Japanese.

To connect a clause to another clause (or other element) to express woe, sorrow,
or something bad by ante posing only:

Penelope opened the envelope only to see a rejection letter.

Felicia found a gift certificate only to see it had already expired.

Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister was worse and
that she could not leave (Austen, Pride, 24).

To qualify nouns without using adjectives:

Columbia is the school to choose.

Lynns hand is the hand to kiss.

Infinitives may also be used as objects of prepositions:

Taking my own meals in my own sitting room, I had nothing to do with


the servants dinner, except to wish them a good stomach to it all
around, previous to composing myself once more in my chair (Collins
24).

The infinitive may also modify an adjective:

Molly is anxious to take her entrance exam.

And finally, we cannot leave this section without mentioning a construct that
professional writers use to great advantage: an infinitive phrase introduced by the word
for:

For the First Lady to take a backseat was embarrassing.

For the Governor to admit it publicly was the kiss of death.

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Sentence Openers

Present Participles (Verbs Ending in ing) Used as Sentence Openers

When master writers use these verbals (verbs ending in ing), they achieve a
sense of action, a sense of immediacy that puts the reader in the midst of the scene. Take
this scene from Giuseppe di Lampedusas The Leopard:

The waters came spurting in minute jets, blown from shells of tritons
and Naiads, from noses of marine monsters, spluttering and pattering
on greenish verges, bouncing and bubbling, wavering and quivering,
dissolving into laughing little gurgles; from the whole fountain, the
tepid water, the stones covered with velvety moss, emanated a promise
of pleasure that would never turn to pain (Lampedusa 73).

Or, from Nikos Kazantzakis Zorba the Greek:

He threw himself into the dance, clapping his hands, leaping and
pirouetting in the air, falling on his knee, leaping again with his legs
tucked upit was as if he were made of rubber (Kazantzakis 70).

The Present Participle should not be confused with the Progressive Tense which
requires the verb to be. At the end of this section youll find a brief discussion and
examples of the progressive tense, also called continuous Present.

Because of their effectiveness in dragging the reader into the action, present
participles make powerful sentence openers. When present participles are used as
sentence openers, they function as adjectives, or to be more precise, as adjective
substitutes which modify the subject.

Creeping from the house and slinking off like a thief: groping with
his hand when first he got into the street as if he were a blind man, and
looking often over his shoulder while he hurried away (Dickens,
Nickebly, 902).

Hearing that, Hogs eyes fogged up as if in gratitude as he mumbled


under his breath, Puerto Ricans aint that bad (Guerrero 77).

Swarming over it all were lilies, roses and vines (Lewis 156).

Passing through a warehouse which presented every indication of a


thriving business, Mr Cheeryble (for such Nicholas supposed him to be,
from the respect which had been shown him by the warehousemen and
porters whom they passed) (Dickens, Nickebly 535).

Sucking a lemon he took stock of his surroundings (Lowry 349).

Scrutinizing the most abstract of legalistic terms, asking himself just


what it meant to plead and pass judgment in terms of legal fictions,
he proposed a methodic search for archetypes (Burke 90).

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In his essay To Err is HumanTo Float, Divine, collected in his book Mere
Anarchy, Woody Allen connects with the reader by opening his book with the present
participle:

Gasping for air, my life passing before my eyes in a series of wistful


vignettes, I found myself suffocating some months ago under the
tsunami of junk mail that cascades through the slot in my door each
morning after kippers (3).

Following up on Woody Allens examples, focus on the prepositions that follow the
present participle: for follows gasping and before follows passing. This pattern
always emerges in the style of prolific writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth George
and Stephen King.

In addition, master writers use the pattern to complement outward descriptions of


actions in which characters are engaged.

Here are a few examples of the present participle followed by prepositions from
Charles Dickens Nicholas Nickleby:

Climbing up another perpendicular flight, composed with great


mechanical ingenuity of nothing but corner, stairs, Mr Ralph Nicklebly
stopped to take a breath on the landing (81).

Regarding with no small curiosity and interest all the busy


preparations for the coming day which every street and almost every
house displayed (105).

Lifting up his eyes, as he arrived at the conclusion that there was no


remedy for this unfortunate state of things, he beheld a horseman
toward him (223).

Uttering in a loud voice such of the latter allusions as were


complimentary to the unconscious phenomenon, and giving the rest in a
confidential aside: to Nicholas (466).

Passing through a warehouse which presented every indication of a


thriving business, Mr Cheeryble (for such Nicholas supposed him to be,
from the respect which had been shown him by the warehousemen and
porters whom they passed) (535).

Prepositions Followed by Present Participles (ing) Used as Sentence


Openers
Beyond locking them all into that stockade at night, there was no great
precaution taken (Sabatini 63).

After doing the breakfast dishes, I rode my bike to the cleaners by the
station (Murakami 56).
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Sentence Openers

After introducing myself, I said that I was planning to marry Kumiko


in the near future (Murakami 77).

Without even asking her if she cared to dance, he put out his arm to
encircle her slender waist (Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 73).

On entering the study Ryabinin looked about, as his habit was, as


though seeking the holy picture, but when he had found it, he did not
cross himself (Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 157).

Without wasting time, he dispensed the money as well as his insidious


smile (Guerrero 75).

In all of the above examples, the present participles function as the object of the
prepositions.

Not, being an adverb, may be used to negate the present participle:

Not saying a word, the man in black motioned him to follow.


(Stendhal, The Red and The Black 175).

Not liking to sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I would lie down
on my bed, dressed as I was (C. Bronte 210).

Not looking to right or left Bill carried Haroun to the vehicle, which
was drawn by two fine gray mares with silken tails and manes
(Caldwell 133).

The Present Progressive tense which is not to be confused with the present
participle takes the form be + V ing.

He is chewing.
She is gossiping.
They are skating.
I am coming home.

This tense is often used to show what is happening at the time of speaking:

Pepino is barking at the snake.


Cell phones off. The conference is starting.

And it is also used to indicate actions that occur over a period of time, including
the present:

I'm playing for the Giants.


The President is working at Camp David.
How is it going?

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Sentence Openers

Past Participles Used as Sentence Openers

Only a genius writer could dare open a sentence with an adjective, since we
writers and readerstend to agree that adjectives are weak words and often unnecessary.
Only Tolstoy could dare opennot only a sentence, but also a paragraph and chapter in a
novelAnna Karenina with an adjective:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its
own way (5).

But what is important to realize is that good writers use adjective substitutes as
sentence openers.

Past participles also function as adjectives. In the following example: The


participial phrase: Smothered in dust and grime, his clothes in disarray, the left sleeve of
his doublet hanging in rags, is equivalent to using a proper adjective, such as filthy:

The filthy young man opened

If you compare filthy to its equivalent verbal form (smothered in ) coupled


with Absolutes, youll notice the huge difference in the description. While the former is
pithy and weak, the latter is ample and strong, making the young man stand out:
picturesque, begrimed, visible. In sum, we can say that past participles combined with
Absolutes are the stuff novelizing language is made of.

Smothered in dust and grime, his clothes in disarray, the left sleeve of
his doublet hanging in rags, this young man opened his lips to speak,
yet for a long moment remained speechless (Sabatini 8).

When mature, successful writers declare that the adjective is the enemy of the
noun and they never use it, they are correct. Seldom do they use proper adjectives, but
instead they use adjective substitutes!

Harassed, exhausted, I lay in a half-trance. (Bronte, Villete 49).

Undeterred, however, young Pitt rode amain along the dusty road by
which these (Sabatini 10).

Controlled fire was a device of man, essential to life in cold climate


(Auel 83).

Confused and hurt, tears welled up, filled her eyes, and overflowed
down her cheeks (Auel 104).

Stunned and humiliated, Punalada held his arm against the front of
his guayabera, which slowly soaked up his blood, the dark red stain
spreading until it covered the whole front of the pale yellow garment
(Guerrero 177).
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Sentence Openers

Subdued, I fixed my attention upon Reverend Sykes, who seemed to


be waiting for me to settle down (Lee 121).

Stunned, Jem and I looked at each other, then at Atticus, whose collar
seemed to worry him (Lee 133).

Mollified, Mayella gave Atticus a final terrified glance and (Lee


180).

Flushed with excitement, she ran to the creek to look for more stones
(Auel 184).

Distracted with the care not of acquiring but of preserving an empire,


oppressed with age and infirmities, careless of fame, and satiated with
power, all his prospects of life were closed (Gibbon 97).

Shaved, dressed and lightly breakfasted, I was at the Hall of Justice


in less than an hour (Chandler 44).

Pioneer feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, in her novel Mary, opened many of
her sentences with past participles:

Engrossed by the scene of misery she had been witness to, she walked
silently by his side, when he roused her out of her reverie by (16).

Overwhelmed by this intelligence, Mary rolled her eyes about, then,


with a vacant stare, fixed them on her fathers face (16).

Terrified of seeing him so near death, and yet so ill prepared for it, his
daughter sat by his bed, oppressed by the keenest anguish, which her
piety increased (19).

Since Mary Wollstonecraft wrote and published her work years before Jane Austen,
many scholars and critics find that she had a great influence in Austens own writing.
And incidentally, although Jane Austen is credited with being one of the inventors of the
Indirect Free Speech mode of narration, Mary Wollstonecraft had already experimented
with it in her brief novel, Mary.

If you have read Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice youll recall the scene in
which Mr. Darcy snubs Elizabeth Bennet, by saying: She is tolerable; but not handsome
enough to tempt me Obviously, these blunt words are of consequence and will have to
be reversed or smoothed out somehow. Observe how the narrator begins a scene using
the past participle:

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingleys attentions to her sister, Elizabeth


was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of
some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely
allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the
ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize (14).

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Sentence Openers

A writerone who ignores the effectiveness of beginning a sentence with a past


participle could have simply written the same idea, but with less artistry:

Elizabeth was occupied in observing Mr. Bingleys attention to her


sister, and was far from

In Saint Augustines2 Confessions we find numerous examples of how he put the


past participle to work to fit his moods. Here are a few examples:

Struck with terror at my sins and at the burden of my misery, I had


been tormented at heart and had pondered flight into the desert (274).

Attached to our lodging there was a little garden; we had the use of it,
as of the whole house, for our host, the owner of the house, did not live
in it (195).

Brought up modestly and soberly in this manner, and made subject by


you to her parents rather than by her parents to you, when she arrived at
a marriageable age, she was given to a husband and served him as her
lord (218).

And to go from the sublime to the comical, observe Woody Allens sentence opener:

Convinced that a firm tone was needed, I stepped between the two and
cleared my throat dramatically just as Pepkin swung the bat at his wife,
cracking my head with the sound of a bases-clearing triple (Allen 122).

And from the comical to serious matters such as Economics, lets see how Alan
Greenspan opens a sentence in his The Age of Turbulence:

Forced to make the shift overnight, the Soviets achieved not a free-
market system but a black-market one (139).

Two permutations of the past participle as sentence opener are quite effective.
First, the past participle may not only be used as negative, but combined with other
constructs such as gerunds:

Not accustomed to mocking, Wolverstone replied in kind and with


interest (Sabatini 293).

Second, it may be doubled up for contrast and emphasis, and also as connectors in
consecutive sentences:

More astonished than flattered, he composed an identifying phrase


(Garcia Marquez, Love in Time, 88).

2 St. Augustine (354 430) Early African bishop of the Christian Church who infused Platonism into
Christian theology. A professor of Rhetoric and prolific writer whose Confessions initiates a new literary
genre.
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Sentence Openers

Relieved of her wrapping, she appeared exceedingly tiny; but was neat,
completely-fashioned little figure, light, slight, and straight. Seated on
my godmothers ample lap, she looked a mere doll; her neck, delicate
as wax, her head of silky curls, increased, I thought, the resemblance
(Bronte, Villette 4).

Charles Dickens used the past participle followed by prepositions to maintain


rhythm and continuity to his narrative. Here are a few examples from his novel Nicholas
Nickleby:

Reassured by this cheering intelligence, the company in some degree


recovered from their fears, which had been productive of some most
singular instances of total want of presence of mind (249).

Occupied in these reflections, as he was making his way along one of


the great public thoroughfares of London, he chanced to raise his eyes
to a blue board (254).

Moved by this entreaty, Newman stammered forth a variety of most


unaccountable and entangled sentences, the upshot of which was, that
(270).

Appeased by this compliment, the lady of the business took some


papers from her desk, which she handed over to Mr Mantalini, who
(278).

Foiled in these attempts, he was fain to content himself with watching


for the young ladys next visit, but here again he was disappointed
(606).

Television reporters, pundits, and talking heads in general often pepper their
speech with Having said that The use and abuse of this verbal has diminished its
effectiveness. In print, journalists also over utilize the form; therefore, we recommend
our readers to use it sparingly, since it is now a form of crutch, a clich like when one
hears, at the end of the day.

Having spoken so, with such evil malice, he sank back again, and tried
to compos himself.

Having delivered the message, he sank back exhausted, his lips


twitching, his eyebrows dripping with sweat.

Having spread the quilt and folded my night-dress, I went to the


window seat to put in order some picture-books and dolls house
furniture scattered there (C. Bronte 25).
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Sentence Openers

Having taken this resolution, my next care was to get together the
wrecks of my fortune, and all debts collected and paid, out of fourteen
thousand pounds we had but four hundred remaining (Goldsmith 44).

In negative form:

Not having felt such a strong premonition in the past, he immediately


called the priest.

Not having been able to sleep, for thinking of some lines for eels,
which he had placed the night before, the lad was lying in his little bed,
waiting for the hour (Thackeray, Esmond 34).

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Sentence Openers

Chapter 3 Subordinating Conjunctions as Sentence Openers


Subordinating Conjunctions are signals, or flags that warn the reader that they are
merely introducing a subordinate idea (subordinate clause), and that a main idea (main
clause) will follow. Given their importance, you will find a complete list at the end of this
chapter. You should also study Appendix B, Clauses in the House of Language.

Of all the constructs we have studied so far, Subordinating Conjunctions are


extremely important for the scrupulous writer. These conjunctions are the workhorses of
the narrative; they do all the heavy lifting from beginning to end. Follow this famous
sentence attributed to Isaac Newton:

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

If I have seen further, is a subordinate clause which is introduced by the subordinating


conjunction if. This clause lacks completeness; it cannot stand by itself. Yet, it sets up an
expectation in the reader to look for completion and closure in what follows. Of course,
what follows is the main idea contained in the main clause (also called independent
clause): it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Besides opening sentences, subordinating conjunction express the main ideas that
humans need for perception: time, place, manner, degree, comparison, purpose, result,
condition, concession, and cause. Youll find a classified list at the end of this section;
professional writers engrave these conjunctions in their brains so that they can retrieve
them at will.

If Mr. Blood had condescended to debate the matter with these ladies,
he might have urged that having had his fill of wandering and
adventuring (Sabatini 4).

If any objection can be raised regarding the truth of this one, it can only
be that its author was Arabic (Cervantes 68).

If he had a headache, she was ill. If he frowned, she trembled. If he


joked, she smiled and was charmed. If he went a-hunting, she was at
the window to see him ride away, her little son crowing on her arm, or
on the watch till his return (Thackeray, Henry Esmond, 58).

Notice, in the above example, how Thackeray constructs a series of sentences with the
subordinating conjunction if, and tacking on an absoluteson crowingto the last
independent clause in the last sentence.

Notice the effective stylistic use of if, by Oscar Wilde, in his essay De Profundis:
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Sentence Openers

If it prove so, read the letter over and over again till it kills your vanity.
If you find in it something of which you feel that you are unjustly
accused, remember that one should be thankful that there is any fault of
which one can be unjustly accused. If there be in it one single passage
that brings tears to your eyes, weep as we weep in prison where the day
no less than the night is set apart for tears. It is the only thing that can
save you. If you go complaining to your mother, as you did with
reference to the scorn of you I displayed in my letter to Robbie, so that
she may flatter and soothe you back into self-complacency or conceit,
you will be completely lost. If you find one false excuse for yourself
you will soon find a hundred, and be just what you were before (Wilde
244).

Frequently concession is manifested not only with If, but also with Even.

Even though philosophers should be in a position to discover the truth,


which of them would take any interest in it? Each knows well that his
system is not better founded than the others, but he supports it because
it is his. (Unamuno 47).

Even though it was Sunday and Phoebe wouldnt be there with her
class or anything, and even though it was so damp and lousy out, I
walked all the way through the park over to the Museum of Natural
History (Salinger 119).

In addition, Even is frequently coupled with prepositions to present two ideas at


once. A master of this techniquewhich he uses in all his novelsis Harold Coyle. Here
are a few examples from More Than Courage:

Even before the last long shadows of daylight were absorbed by the
gathering gray twilight they would be out and about, pursuing those
chores that were so necessary for survival in this harsh and most
unforgiving land (5).

Even while still in the States, they had spent more of their waking
hours with each other than with their own families (27).

Even without the goggles on, Mendez was still watching and listening
(35).

And in Judith McNaughts Almost Heaven, we find Even coupled with adverbs:

Even now just the memory of the way he smiled, of the intimacy of his
heavy-lidded gaze, made her feel hot and cold all over (47).

Even when he reluctantly guided her back to the group around the
Townsendes, which still included Valerie and Georgina and Viscount
Modevale, Elizabeth felt nothing (317).

To is a great helper to reduce wordiness: a simple To can replace much

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Sentence Openers

abused padding:

with a view to
so as to be able to
in order to
so as to
in support of
for the purpose of

Because is a subordinating conjunction of cause that explains an action. Besides


its explanatory role, it also has an economic function; in that, it reduces wordiness.
Heres a list of some of the expressions that may be eliminated by a simple because.

owing to the fact that


on the grounds that
inasmuch as
in view of the fact that
due to the fact that
based on the fact that
insofar as
for the reasons that
the reason why is that

Because he liked the place, in which he planned to leave his bones, and
because he conceived that he only had a few months to live, he
determined to stay.

While Walter piled food on his plate, he and Atticus talked together
like two men, to the wonderment of Jem and Me (Lee 24).

When Elmer entered, they were on their knees, their arms on the seats
of reversed chairs, their heads bowed, all praying aloud and together
(Lewis 69).

Although in general Gary applauded the modern trend toward


individual self-management of retirement funds and long-distance
calling plans and private-schooling options, he was (Franzen 137).

Though I was curious to see her I had no desire to meet herbut I did
(Fitzgerald 28).

Though Joseph had rejected the world of men as no part of his own
being, except to accede to his secret ambitions, he could not be
insensible to the beauty of the land (Caldwell 86).

Though my mother was a writer of prose, and reveled in satire, the


poetic feeling clung to her to the last (Trollope 21).

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Sentence Openers

But even if the two ideas presented in the subordinate and independent clauses are
more or less balanced in importance, the construction is still quite effective because it
allows the writer to present them simultaneously, keeping the reader on his or her toes,
always on the lookout for what follows, always waiting for the other shoe to fallso to
speak. But besides the sense of anticipation and tension that subordinate clauses create,
readers (moral human beings that we are) cannot avoid thinking of the consequences of
an action. By using though and although, the writer signals concession from the
beginning, causing the reader to race ahead to find the results and the consequences of
such assent or admission.

In addition, both Though and Although are useful in eliminating the wordiness
that we often find in superfluous phrases such as: in spite of the fact that.

What and That are unobtrusive subordinating conjunctions that lend


continuity to the narrative. Note this sequence in Salingers The Catcher in the Rye:

What I like best is a book thats at least funny once in a while. I read a
lot of classical books, like The Return of the Native and all, and I like
them, and I read a lot of war books and mysteries and all, but they
dont knock me out too much.

And note next the transition with What:

What really knocks me out is a book that, when youre all done
reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of
yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it
(18).

Observe how Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre opens a sentence:

What my sensations were, no language can describe; but just as they


all arose, stifling my breath and constricting my throat, a girl came up
and passed me: in passing, she lifted her eyes.

And next the transition with two What imperatives:

What a strange light inspired them! What an extraordinary sensation


that ray sent through me! (64)

Master writer Elizabeth George uses both What and That with great efficiency
in her novel In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner:

What the dog had found was a scene of chaos (46).

What remained was like a tarpaulin (47).

That Hillier wanted to sack her as much as he wanted to abuse her was
clear as could be (57).
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Sentence Openers

That Andy Maiden had been allowed to do so suggested spheres of


influence that could easily encroach upon Lynleys efforts to manage a
smooth investigation (67).

And from Charlotte Brontes Jane Eyre:

What my sensations were, no language can describe; but just as they


arose, stifling my breath and constricting my throat, a girl came up and
passed me: in passing, she lifted her eyes. What a strange light inspired
them! What an extraordinary sensation that ray sent through me!
(Bronte, Jane Eyre, 64).

That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of life:
that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on sweet lies, and
swallowed poison as if it was nectar (Bronte, Jane Eyre, 161).

That may also be used in the negative form:

Not that Samantha didnt mourn her fathers passing herself (George
101).

Not that the gustatory moment mattered much (Nabokov 43).

Not that I feared Graham would hurt, or very roughly check her; but I
thought she ran risk of incurring such a careless, impatient repulse, as
would be worse almost to her than a blow (Bronte, Villete 26).

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Sentence Openers

LIST OF SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS*

Idea expressed Signaled by Subordinating Conjunction


Time After, as, before, when, whenever, since,
till, until, as soon as, while
Place Where, wherever
Manner As, as if, as though
Preference Rather than, sooner than
Degree That, asas, not soas, than
Comparison and As, as if, than, soas, asas, whereas,
Contrast while, whilst
Purpose That, so that, so as to, in order that
Result That, so that
Condition If, unless, in case, as long as, provided,
provided that, unless
Concession Although, though, even if, if, whereas
Similarity As, like
Cause As, because, for, since
*Subordinating conjunctions are also called Adverbial Subordinators, and in this role
they signal the introduction of Adverbial Clauses.

Quick review: clauses contain a subject and a predicate: Her cat died. When a clause
contains an explanation of how, when, or in what way, the action takes place, then the
clause becomes an Adverbial Clause:

Her cat die when they moved to Phoenix..

If they lose weight during an illness, they soon regain it afterwards.

In the above examples, the adverbial subordinators are when and if.

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Sentence Openers

Chapter 4 Coordinating Conjunctions as Sentence Openers


In a compound sentence, a coordinating conjunction joins the first main
(independent) clause to the second. Coordinating conjunctions also connect phrases:

The play was sold out, so we went to see a movie.

The steak was overcooked and tough, yet I ate the whole thing.

But the contemporary use of these basic conjunctions goes beyond the above
functions. Although most of us learned in high school and college that we should never
open a sentence with a coordinating conjunction, we gladly break that rule because these
seven general conjunctionsbut, or, yet, for, and, nor, soprovide for easy transitions
not only between sentences, but also between chapters and paragraphs.

Rather than a grammatical rule, it was an arbitrary rule probably set by teachers
and professors of English composition. But, innovative writers such as Charles Dickens
and Rafael Sabatini had no qualms about breaking such rule:

I wore away the longest part of many wild sad nights, in those rides;
reviving, as I went, the thoughts that had occupied me in my long
absence.
Or, if I were to say rather that I listened to the echoes of those
thoughts, I should better express the truth (Dickens, David Copperfield,
857).

I cannot call to mind where or when, in my childhood, I had seen a


stained glass window in a church. Nor do I recollect its subject. But I
know that when I saw her turn around, in the grave light of the old
staircase, and wait (Dickens, David Copperfield, 223).

Yet out of the corner of those hazel eyes she scanned this fellow very
attentively as he came nearer (Sabatini 41).

But the lady was not satisfied at all (Sabatini 53).

Nor was he likely, on account of it, to allow himself to run to rust in


the security of Tortuga. For what he had suffered at the hands of Man
he had chosen to make Spain the scapegoat. (Sabatini 135).

Nor did Sir Everards apprehensions of personal consequences seem to


correspond with the reports spread among his Whig neighbours (Scott
59).

And then into the stockade, panting and sweating, came Kent
(Sabatini 84).

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Sentence Openers

With the advent of television, movies, and the Internet, viewers and readers have
become accustomed to sudden jumps between scenes.

Though monosyllabic these conjunctions can be quite striking and powerful in


directing readers attention, much like film techniques jump cut, fade, montage, close
up, etc do with viewers:

Thus Themistocles managed to serve both Greece and Persia at the


same time. But since gratitude is unknown to the Greeks, Themistocles
was ostracized. Later, when Pausanias tried to interest him in
subverting Greece, he refused to join the conspiracy. This was un-
Greek of him to say the least. Or, perhaps, he did not trust Pausanias
(Vidal 556).

But not only are coordinating conjunctions used as sentence openers and
paragraph openers, but also to begin a book. Note how Virginia Woolf opens her
thoughtful feminist essay and book A Room of Ones Own:

But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction
what has that got to do with a room of ones own? (3).

So important are these general conjunctions that they should be memorized; a


chore that can be made easy if they are arranged in the following mnemonic device: FAN
BOYS. Or vertically,

For
And
Nor
But
Or
Yet
So

To conclude this chapter, see how master writers open the very last sentence of
their respective masterpieces:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the
past (Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 189).

And Gore Vidal:

But I have written on these matters elsewhere and mention them now
only to express my gratitude to the old man whose life story I am
pleased to dedicate to the last living survivor of a brilliant time,
Aspasia, the wife of Lysicles, the sheep-dealer (Vidal, Creation, 574).

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Sentence Openers

Chapter 5 Similes as Sentence Openers


First you give the apple sauce, then the aspirinthe proverb goes; likewise with
similes as openers. First you give an image that the reader may swallow, and then you hit
him with the main idea.

In the example that follows the main idea that is being highlighted is the scattered,
disjointed thoughts or ideas in the characters mind, how theyideasall of a sudden
rush and converge with lucidity, providing the character with a strategy, with a plan of
action. The imagethat the reader can visualize without mental effort or disruptionis
the group of runners. As you can see, there are two parts to both metaphor and simile.

Like sprinters to a finish line, several disjointed ideas that had been
meandering in her mind rushed together as she sat there rubbing her
temples, and in a flash she saw what she had to do.

Like an architect designing a palace, he planned the life he was going


to lead (Flaubert, Sentimental Education, 113).

By opening the sentence with images, the sheer strangeness of it, of their location at the
very beginning of the sentence, writers startle readers, provoking them to form a mental
picture. Through these mental picture, the main ideas, which are basically abstractions,
are concretized.

Notice how Charlotte Bronte opens a sentence:

Like a bird or a shaft, or any other swift thing, she was gone from the
room (Villette 9).

Like the porcupine I sate self collected, with a quill pointed against
every opposer (Goldsmith 122).

Just to make sure that this point doesnt go unheeded, lets reinforce it by keeping in
mind that both similes and metaphors have two parts:

Image

Main idea

In all cases the image must appeal to the senses. But in some cases similes are slipped in
without the usual comparative words as and like, as in the two following examples:

Her pale face framed in a borderless cap was more wrinkled than a
withered russet apple (Flaubert 94).

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Sentence Openers

He regarded me with all the boredom of a boa constrictor after a heavy


meal of groundhog (Grafton, B is for Burglar 92).

And the comparison doesnt have to be a visual appeal, necessarily. Here is an example
of a kinesthetic (a body sensation) image:

I was feeling bad about Sharon Napier all over again, guilt sitting in my
gut like a low-level colic (Grafton, A is for Alibi 123).

At the risk of belaboring the point and re-stating the obvious, Ill insistand just this
once, and asking the readers pardonin explaining this simile: the body sensation of a
low-level colic concretizes the main ideaguiltwhich otherwise would just lie there
like a piece of spilled debris.

A series of olfactory, auditory, kinesthetic, and visual similes, culled from Sue
Graftons novel C is for Corpse, illustrate how this skillful writer appeals to the readers
senses:

The whole twenty-eight-hundred square feet of space smells like mens


jockstraps (2).

He lowered his face into his hands and sighed once with relief, a sound
like a low note on a bagpipe (47).

The whole place smelled like cold carnations in a florists refrigerated


case (60).

An old woman, lying on the pallet nearest me, was naked, as still as
wood and looking faintly dehydrated. A dramatic Yshaped cut had
been made down the middle of her body, sewn back in big clumsy
stitches, like a chicken, stuffed and trussed. Her breasts were splayed
outward like old beanbags and her pubic area was almost as hairless as
a young girls (105).

Well placed similes and metaphors will compress, will tighten the image and the main
idea, making them vivid, making them interesting, and if they fall short of Aquinas
model (wholeness, proportion, and radiance), at least theyll add grace and harmony to
the narrative, or humor, as in the following example:

His memory might be spotty in the morning, and he might be like a


squirrel who buried nut and forgot where hed buried them (Block
287).

In the next example, had the writer simply stated a fact: she lowered her voice,
nothing would have been gained, given that the action is so banal. Ordinary acts go
unperceived. The image of whispering and sharing a secret adds vividness to the scene.
The reader will tend to remember both, the image and the main idea, and at the
appropriate time draw conclusions, such as, Ah, now I get it! Thats why the father was
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Sentence Openers

so secretive, and so forth.

As if sharing a secret, she lowered her voice, Well, your father asked
me to promise not to tell you he had been there to see you.

As a bird that had been frighted from its nest, my affections out-went
my haste, and hovered round my little fire-side, with all the rapture of
expectation (Goldsmith 140).

Aristotle3 says, The greatest thing in style is to have command of metaphor, and
many talented writers have such command. Sue Grafton, for example, in her Kinsey
Millhone mysteries regales the reader with the most startling similes and metaphors, yet
seldom does she use them as sentence openers.

In his Rhetoric, Aristotle specifies three indispensable characteristics of effective


metaphors:

1. They must elicit something new: Now strange


words simply puzzle us; ordinary words convey
only what we know already; it is from metaphor
that we can best get hold of something fresh (441).

2. They must be simple: It is also good to use


metaphorical words; but the metaphors must not be
far-fetched, or they will be difficult to grasp, nor
obvious, or they will have no effect (443).

3. They must be dynamic: The words, too, ought to


set the scene before our eyes; for events ought to be
seen in progress rather in prospect (443).

To incite readers, to keep their attention riveted to the narrative, the writer will
add freshness, vividness, and movement. Using similes as sentence openers accounts for
breathless narrative as shown in two examples from Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway:

Like a nun withdrawing, or a child exploring a tower, she went


upstairs, paused at the window, came to the bathroom (31).

Like the pulse of a perfect heart, life struck straight through the streets
(54).

Erich Segal in his humorous and quite entertaining novel The Class, uses this
technique to great success:

Like a nervous infantryman, Dr. Rossi feared he might be crossing into


3 Aristotle (384 322 b.c.) A student of Plato; his philosophical method dominated Western thought until
modern times. Besides philosophical tracts he wrote the Poetics and Rhetoric.
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Sentence Openers

a minefield (10).

Like his famous forebear in antiquity, Socrates Lambros was


uncompromising in his way of life (62).

Like modern musketeers, the three decided theyd stick together (91)

Given the power of similes and metaphors, the scrupulous writer must avoid dead
or dying metaphors because readers will recognize them as clichs. This is a piece of
advice that is worth repeating, for even literary writers ignore it:

(Miss Ingram was dark as a Spaniard)but Mary was deficient her


life: her face lacked expression, her eye luster; she had nothing to say,
and having once taken her seat, remained fixed like a statue in its
niche (Bronte, Jane Eyre 174).

Come and have a look, its croaked; its lying there, dead as a
doornail! (Kafka, Metamorphosis 54).

The eldest girl was shaking like a leaf (Dostoevsky, Crime 21).

I am blown about like a leaf, she replied (Hawthorne, Blithedale


171).

In his much anthologized essay, Politics and the English Language, George
Orwell4 says: The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image, and proposes a
rule: Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to
seeing in print.

4 George Orwell, (British subject, born in India, 1903 1950) writer, journalist, and novelist: Animal Farm
and Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Sentence Openers

Chapter 6 Prepositional Phrases as Sentence Openers


Lets take a moment to understand the important role that prepositions have in the
English language. Prepositions are connective words, and though they are for the most
part short they pack a powerful punch.

Assume that it is midnight and that a tourist, who is standing on 5th Avenue and
72nd Street, asks a New Yorker how to get to the West Side. The directions could be a
matter of life and death:

Just go through the park,

or

Go around the park.

Prepositional phrases function as adjective, adverbs, and sometimes as nouns.

When used as adverbs, prepositional phrases perform the same job that adverbs
do:

Jacqueline Susan wrote brilliantly.

The adverb brilliantly (which qualifies the verb wrote) may be replaced by the
prepositional phrase with brilliance:

Jacqueline Susan wrote with brilliance.

An abundance of adverbs is a clear sign that the writer isnt choosing her verbs
with care, a habit that leads to wordiness and sluggishness:

Leona closed the door violently.

Notice the same sentence with a more adequate verb eliminate the need for
violently:

Leona slammed the door.

Repetitive use of adverbs ending in ly should cause the flag to go up:

Leona breathed noisily and wearily.

Could be revised to:

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Sentence Openers

Leona yawned.

Another example of excessive use of adverbs:

No one sang more ardently, lucidly, vigorously, humorously and


passionately than Ethel Merman (Schlesinger, Jr. 137).

Could be revised to:

No one out sang Ethel Merman.

When used as sentence openers, prepositional phrases not only function as


adverbs, but also take on the adverbs properties to specify verb relationships such as:
time, place, manner, and condition. At the end of this chapter, and for quick reference,
youll find a list of the most widely used prepositions. Any good grammar book will
include lists of prepositions classified as to time, place, manner, motion, and condition.

In the vessels waist they hung awhile, until Mr. Blood had satisfied
himself that no other sentinel showed above decks but that
inconvenient fellow in the prow (Sabatini 91).

After dinner, when we were sitting by the fire, and I was meditating an
escape to Peggotty without having the hardihood to slip away a
coach drove up to the garden-gate, and he went out to receive his
visitor (Dickens, Copperfield 47).

During the late summer of 1714 all England awaited the coming of
King George I. On September 18 he landed at Greenwich (Churchill
95).

During the dull day, in the course of which he was entertained by his
elderly hosts and by the more important of the visitors (Tolstoy,
War and Peace 369).

(In the above example Tolstoy embellishes the use of his prepositional phrase with
alliteration).

To the young lady, this separation was the poignant climax of all her
sufferings.

Through the carport, I could see a patchy apron of grass, a crescent of


yard (Grafton, A is for Alibi 170).

With any other jury it must have made the impression that he hoped to
make. It may even have made its impression put on these poor,
pusillanimous sheep (Sabatini 29).

This one-syllableWithpreposition is a humble preposition, yet it plays an


important role in the English language. Notice how Michiko Kakutanithe New York
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Sentence Openers

Times, meticulous, and master revieweropens not only a sentence but the opening
paragraph and book review of Jeffrey Toobins The Nine:

With President Bushs addition of John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A.


Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, the balance of power in the highest
court in the land has shifted decisively to the right (21 Sep.2007).

Other examples:

With imagination in the popular sense, command of


imagery, and metaphorical expression, Bentham was, to a
certain degree, endowed (Mill 96).

Of all the people riding the elevator with her, she distinguished a
middle-aged woman in a wheelchair and a well-dressed young woman
holding a red plastic folder against her bosom (Guerrero 93).

Of the geese outside the side-gate who come waddling after me with
their long necks stretched out when I go that way, I dream at night, as a
man environed by wild beasts might dream of lions (Dickens, David
Copperfield 14).

Among the privileges enjoyed by the well-born was that of legacy-


admission to an Ivy League college.

Within six days after Augustus had been compelled to accept so very
liberal a grant, he resolved to gratify the pride of the senate by an easy
sacrifice (Gibbon 47).

Behind me, almost soundlessly, came the low scuffling of the dogs in
long loping strides (Grafton, A is for Alibi 209).

From the British camp on Staten Island the American lines could be
seen across the bay on the spurs of Long Island, on the heights of
Brooklyn above the East River (Churchill 175).

Scott Peck in his spiritual book The Road Less Traveled uses To not only once,
but in sequence:

To our children we say, Dont talk back to me, Im your parent. To


our spouse we give the message, Lets live and let live. If you criticize
me, Ill be a bitch to live with, and youll regret it. To their families
and the world the elderly give the message, Im old and fragile. If you
challenge me I may die or at least you will bear upon your head the
responsibility for making my last days on earth miserable (52).

Because group prepositions often tend to become overused, its preferable to


avoid them as sentence openers:

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in any format.
Sentence Openers

On top of
In the midst of
In front of
By means of
According to
For the sake of
In terms of
On the heels of

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in any format.
Sentence Openers

Chapter 7 Absolute Phrases as Sentence Openers


When a reader says of a book, I couldnt put it down, you may be sure that the
writer has deployedconsciously and with skillall of the above techniques to keep the
reader turning the pages.

In the Art of Fiction, Henry James says, The only obligation to which in advance
we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be
interesting. Yet, he went on to write lengthy novels that today only the patient and
sympathetic followers ever read.

Readers complain that though they would like to read James monster-novels
from beginning to end, they dont get beyond the first chapter. Why is this? A great deal
of it has to do James style: long convoluted sentences in the S-V-O patterna
catastrophic formula for dull, tedious, soporific reading.

As we have seen, the choice of sentence openers keeps the reader interested,
breaking up the monotony of the S-V-O pattern. By mixing and commingling the
sentence openers we have discussed, your prose will become athletic, exciting, breathless
never boring.

Nominative Absolutes may also be used as sentence openers! Absolutes, then


become unsurpassed tools to spice up and revive sentences that otherwise might lay dead
on arrival.

Take the following plain sentence:

Louise rushed to the bathroom where she scrubbed her hands


thoroughly.

And compare it to the same sentence with an Absolute as opener:

Hands trembling, Louise rushed to the bathroom where she scrubbed


her hands thoroughly.

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in any format.
Sentence Openers

LIST OF THE MOST COMMON PREPOSITIONS

About In back of
above In front of
Across Inside
After Instead of
Against Into
Ahead of Like
Along Near
Among Next to
Around Of
As Off
At On
Back to/back from Onto
Before On top of
Behind Opposite
Below Out
Beneath Outside
Beside Over
Besides Past (no longer able)
Between Past (older, later than)
Beyond Through
But Throughout
By To
Close to Toward
Despite/in spite of Towards
Down Under
During Underneath
Except Until
Far from Up
For With
From Within
In Without

2009 Mary Duffy with Marciano Guerrero. You may not copy, reproduce, post or forward this book 36
in any format.
Sentence Openers

CHAPTER 8 CORRELATIVE CONJUNCTIONS AS


OPENERS

By choosing to start his long novel David Copperfield with the correlative
conjunction whether/or, Charles Dickens signals the reader that perhaps we should
search of more than one hero in the story. This is a startling beginning:

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that
station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

Because they add clarity, crispness, and fluidity to the narrative, these pairs are
quite transparent to the reader; they perform their function in an unobtrusive manner.
Thus we can say that correlative conjunctions dont call attention to themselves:

both . . . and
either . . . or
just as . . . so
neither . . . nor
not only . . . but also
whether . . . or

However, when they are chosen as sentence openers, they stir up the readers
attention, making them wonder why they have been uprooted from the middle to the
front. Why has the furniture been rearranged? they would ask.

Note how in the following example from the Vicar of Wakefield, the narrator by
means of the pair neither nor injects a flash forward to advance the story:

Neither the fatigues and dangers he was going to encounter, nor the
friends and mistress, for Miss Wilmot actually loved him, he was
leaving behind, [in] any way damped his spirits (Goldsmith 134).

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in any format.
Sentence Openers

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Sentence Openers

INDEX
Adams, John Quincy.................................................38 Lampedusa, Giuseppe di.....................................11, 40
Allen, Woody......................................................12, 16 Lewis, C. S................................................7, 11, 21, 40
Augustine............................................................16, 38 Maugham, W. Somerset............................................40
Aurelius, Marcus.......................................................38 McNaught, Judith......................................................20
Austen, Jane..........................................................5, 15 Melville, Herman........................................................6
Bacon Francis.............................................................4 Mill, John Stuart.......................................................40
Beckett, Samuel..........................................................8 Moore, Marianne........................................................3
Bellow, Saul..............................................................38 Ortega y Gasset, Jose.................................................8
Block, Lawrence.................................................28, 38 Orwell, George.........................................................30
Bronte, Charlotte...................................................9, 30 Peale, Norman Vincent...............................................9
Caldwell, Taylor............................................13, 21, 38 Peck, Scott................................................................33
Cervantes..................................................................19 Phaedrus.....................................................................3
Churchill, Winston Spencer......................................38 Plato................................................................4, 29, 40
Collins, Wilkie..........................................................10 Prose, Francine.........................................................40
Coyle, Harold............................................................20 Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur........................................32, 41
Derrida, Jacques..........................................................4 Scott, Sir Walter........................................................25
Dickens, Charles...........................................12, 17, 33 Segal, Erich...............................................................29
Ellis, Bret Easton......................................................39 Sentence Openers........................................................3
Fitzgerald, Scott......................................................6, 7 Socrates.................................................................3, 30
Flaubert, Gustave................................................27, 39 Stendhal......................................................................8
Fleming, Ian..............................................................39 Strong verbs................................................................7
Frye, Northrop..........................................................39 Thackeray, William...................................................19
George, Elizabeth..........................................12, 22, 30 Tolstoy, Leo........................................................14, 32
Gibbon, Edward............................................15, 33, 39 Toobin, Jeffrey..........................................................33
Goldsmith, Oliver..........................................18, 29, 37 Trollope, Anthony.......................................................8
Grafton, Sue............................................28, 29, 32, 33 Twain, Mark.............................................................41
Greenspan, Alan........................................................16 Unamuno, Miguel de................................................20
Hamlet........................................................................7 Vidal, Gore.........................................................26, 41
Hardwick, Elizabeth..................................................39 Voltaire.......................................................................3
Hawthorne, Nathaniel.................................................8 Weak verbs.................................................................7
James, Henry.............................................................35 Wilde, Oscar.......................................................19, 20
Kafka, Franz.............................................................30 Wollstonecraft, Mary................................................15
Kakutani, Michiko....................................................32 Woolf, Virginia.........................................................26
Kazantzakis, Nikos...................................................40 Xantippe.....................................................................3
King, Stephen...........................................................12

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