Begin at the beginning before beginning to begin

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"It's hard to begin a sentence well. Readers want to get to topic/subjects quickly, but too often, we begin sentences in ways that keep readers from getting there. It's called throat-clearing. Throat-clearing typically begins with metadiscourse (pp. 51-53) that connects a sentence to the previous one. These include common transitions such as and, but, therefore, etc. - Williams Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace

I am currently a junior in college who's also a Journalism and Creative Writing double major. In short, I write a lot. I've had a lot of experience writing and I've written numerous academic papers throughout my education. Looking back on the long (and some not so long) papers I've had to write in order to pass a class and comparing it to the quote above, I think "School is why we put all that extra crap in!" As students we are typically assigned a minimum page length that we are required to meet. So it makes the brilliant amount of sense to us to throw as many obstacles as possible in a sentence to make it longer, filling up our pages with words.

Thus does a sentence like:

"Today the world was brought to a standstill by the theatre department's melodrama."

Becomes:

"It is important to note that on January 10, 2010, the entire world, with all of its seven billion inhabitants, was wrenched to an absolute standstill by the theatre department's extravagant melodrama. And therefore, at Blaggsdrole Univeristy, police officials have cordoned off the surrounding college campus in efforts to reduce public interaction, such as witnessing or hearing theatre students dramatic performances, so as to corral the upset students."

Don't worry, we hate to write like the above as much as others like to read it. Well, maybe some like to write like that, but I'd wager it's for entertainment value more than anything else. Even as I write some poor student out there is attempting to hit a minimum page length and trying to make their sentences as long as possible with wordy speed bumps. (That is if they haven't just decided to make their font bigger or increase the spacing of the lines.)

3 Comments

I do write like that also to fill up word/page count, but sometimes I catch myself putting "perhaps" and "maybe" and other fillers in front of sentences. I do it a lot when I speak too.

Maybe (see) I don't like to be wrong, but a lot of the time this habit occurs in my fiction writing and I feel that (perhaps) the character's personality would narratate that way.

Yes, the page lengths are a shortcut for how deep we want you to go. I'd rather see a short, polished draft than a draft that the student has put extra effort into puffing up to the right length.

If a student submits an assignment that's just a little bit short, I don't really worry about it unless I see evidence that even this short paper was stretched.

Blaggsdrole? I just Googled that word, and this was the only page that came up. (Congratulations on inventing an awesome word.)

I also wrote about this part. I thought it was interesting because we all do it, and we realize it but probably didn't really realize it was a bad thing. It's good to know that Williams is able to find the things that he knows are wrong, and that we all do, and can help us fix it. He's becoming very helpful.

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