Changing Emphasis

for clarity, voice and style

Changing Emphasis

To be covered
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. End the sentence with emphasis Avoid weak starts Alter expected word order for emphasis Keep related words together Add emphasis through repetition

Changing Emphasis

1. End the sentence with emphasis
The end of a sentence is its most emphatic spot. ž The most emphatic spot ž in a sentence is the end. ž

ž

Changing Emphasis

For example
From an informative essay about dogs (not archeology):

The dog is actually the first animal to be domesticated by humans, according to archaeological findings.
Edited for better emphasis: According to archaeological findings, the dog is actually the first animal to be domesticated by humans. And again: According to archaeological findings, the first animal to be domesticated by humans was [drum roll] the dog.

Changing Emphasis

2. Avoid weak starts
The 2nd most emphasized spot
in a sentence is the opening.

The opening
is the 2nd most emphasized spot in a sentence
Therefore, avoid expletives—it + be-verb or there + be-verb—and other weak, wordy openings. Such phrases are neither nouns nor action verbs—things nor actions—and things and actions are generally just what we want to emphasize generally.

Changing Emphasis

Weak opening: It is the governor who sways the town’s people to violence. Edited for better emphasis: The governor sways the people….

For example

Weak opening: There are problems that have not been addressed for years now. Edited for better emphasis: Problems exist that have not been addressed for years.
Or even: Certain problems persist (persist = have not been addressed for years).
Changing Emphasis

More examples
Weak opening:

It is imperative that a solution be found.
Edited for better emphasis: A solution is

imperative.

Weak opening:

There was an amazing light show that filled the sky. An amazing light show filled the sky.

Changing Emphasis

3. Alter expected word order for emphasis
If expected word order is altered the start is even more emphasized
Even more emphasized is the start when expected word order is altered

Changing Emphasis

For example
I’ll go with you. < fact With you I will go. < declaration

This semester has been challenging.
Challenging has been the semester. (Yoda effect, use
with caution)

Changing Emphasis

More examples
Blessed are the peacemakers. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.(J.R.R.
Tolkein, The Hobbit)

What they talked of all evening long, no one remembered next day. (Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine) There on the tiny stoop sat Pecola in a light red sweater and blue cotton dress. (Toni Morrison, The
Bluest Eye)

Changing Emphasis

4. Keep related words together
Because moving modifiers can change not just emphasis but meaning.

He found only one good sale. < fact, implying many good
sales were expected

He found one good sale only. <same fact, different
emphasis and tone (so sad)

Only he found a good sale. < different fact (no one else
found any good sales; he’s amazing)

He only found one good sale. < possible criticism (he’s a
bad shopper)
Changing Emphasis

Another example
Don Henry, or the Vampire King of California, testified to only consuming the blood of his girlfriend one-to-two times a week. (As opposed to other vampires who consume considerably more.)

Or is it
Don Henry, or the Vampire King of California, testified to consuming only the blood of his girlfriend (and no other food whatsoever) one-totwo times a week.
Changing Emphasis

And a modifier will modify the nearest word, whether intended or not
You can call your mother in Beijing and tell her all about Dan taking you out to dinner for just two dollars. Oops. Is that what you meant? Will
your mother like this cheap guy?

For just two dollars, you can call your mother in Beijing and tell her all about Dan taking you out to dinner. Oh… cheap phone card.
Changing Emphasis

5. Add emphasis through repetition
"Entreat me not to leave thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried.

Changing Emphasis

Anaphora – repeated beginnings
I came, I saw, I conquered (Veni, Vidi, Vici again) Julius Ceasar 三十年河东三十年河西 San shi nian he dong, san shi nian he si (Thirty years the east bank, thirty years the west bank. Meaning, be patient, fate can change). Chinese Proverb. He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe. If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it. Marcus Aurelius May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete. Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 5
Changing Emphasis

Epistrophe – repeated endings
What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us. Emerson A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003
Changing Emphasis

For More
About revising for emphasis, here.

Changing Emphasis

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