During the weeks ahead, we will be looking at examples of clumsy writing and how to smooth out the flaws. The compass points for every kind of writing are CLARITY, LOGIC, STYLE, AND GRACE.
We will apply these compass points to keep our writing on a true course.
This week we look at the most misuse of logic in connecting two sentences.
Take the sentence. "I went to New York. The city that never sleeps was in a deep-sleep shut down because of Covid 19." Where does the logic go wrong in this passage?
First, we must know that CLARITY demands that a sentence must logically follow the meaning of the sentence preceding it. Next, we must remember (or learn for the first time) where the true meaning of any sentence lies.
To discover the source of meaning in a sentence we must recall what part of speech of the eight parts of speech is the most important. And thinking back to 7th grade grammar we remember that it is the verb that is the most important. We remember that a verb is a word that expresses action (run, jump, eat). And that's about all we remember about verbs.
We have forgotten that of the eight parts of speech the verb is the most important. In fact, the verb is the only part of speech that communicates on is own. We have forgotten or never knew that a verb can be used for many grammar functions. For example, it can be used to make a phrase (running hard); it can be used to make a clause (Where you went); it can be used to make a sentence (The dog is big.) And lost a long time ago was our knowledge that the most important verb function is that of "predicate".
A verb functioning as a predicate is the key to logical sentence-to-sentence transitions. A "predicate" is the main verb of a sentence. For example, in the sentence "The dog is big that lives next door" the verb "is" is the main verb of the sentence; hence the verb "is" is called the "predicate" of the sentence. (The other verb in the sentence, "lives", belongs to a dependent clause (that lives next door); a dependent clause verb is never a predicate. So it is the idea of the predicate where we look to find the meaning of any sentence.
We were probably never taught this in school. We were taught that an English sentence is made up of a subject, verb, and object. The emphasis, as we understood it, was on the subject. A sentence is about the subject, we assumed. And so assuming we fell off course when it comes to linking sentences in a logical way. So where did we go wrong?
We failed to see the true role of the predicate and meaning in the idea it converys. Yes, the sentence is about the subject, as we were told, but "what is it about" the subject that we must understand?
To answer that we must know why a subject is called a "subject."
Few of us, if any of us, were told in school "why" a subject is called a "subject." We were told "what" a subject is but seldom, if ever, told "why" it's called a "subject." Not telling us "why" did us future writers a great disservice. We just accepted the label "subject" and kept our eyes focused on the sentence's main noun (not its verb).
Thus we missed the slight-of-hand worked by the predicate (main verb of the sentence). We failed to see and appreciate that the subject could only do what the predicate told it to do. So in the sentence "John eats fish" John can only do what the predicate "eats" tells him to do: "eat." Why is this so? Because John is a "subject." He is not the King of the sentence.
Think of Great Britain. Who is the ultimate ruler of this nation? Today it is a Queen, Years past is was a King. And all the people who come under the authority of a King or Queen are called what? They are called "subjects". They cannot do anything until the King or Queen tells them what to do or how to do it. They are "subject" to the authority of their sovereign. The same dynamic is at work in a sentence.
The Predicate is the King or Queen. The Predicate rules. The sentence's subject is called a "subject" because it is subject to the instructions of King or Queen Predicate. It can only do what the predicate tells it to do. So in the sentence "John eats fish" King Predicate has ordered John to eat. Therein lies the idea (meaning) of the sentence: "eat". Secondary to the meaning are "John" and "fish."
Therefore any sentence following "John eats fish" must continue the logical idea (meaning) of the first sentence's predicate. Hence one way to logically connect "John eats fish" to a following sentence would be: "John eats fish. He chews it slowly" (it's not about fish; it's about the preceding predicate idea: eating.) But most writers would pen: "John eats fish. He likes trout the best." This is a logic flaw: the writer is writing about the direct object noun (fish) instead of writing about the predicate verb's action (the sentence's main idea).
Such a logic flaw spoils most passages written today. The danger of such a flaw is that it casts doubt in the reader's mind about the writer's thinking ability and hence the writer's credibility. All we writers have is our credibility; any crack in credibility throws doubt into the reader's mind, and for us writers that is a fatal flaw.
So now...knowing what we know about connecting two or more sentences: How would we rewrite the following passage to make it logical? "I went to New York. The city that never sleeps was in a deep-sleep shut down because of Covid 19."
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Talk to you soon,