Creative Essays: Voice (Syntax)

Daily Prompt #8: Punctuation Social Personalities

Consulting the “Punctuation Social Personalities” handout, decide which type of punctuation best matches you and your personality.  You can pick more than one.

For example, here’s how I’d describe my personality using punctuation:

– ! ? ; ! –

Now, write about.  You can choose the STYLE you want to write in (consult your handout from yesterday for ideas). It’s your personality; you decide.

Write for ten minutes.

Punctuation is a powerful way of getting your voice across in your writing. Consider what a piece with many exclamation points is saying versus a piece with lots of hyphens.

Choose your punctuation wisely, and use it correctly.

Yesterday, I reviewed the elements of writing you have control over to create your own unique voice. Today, we’re going to focus on one of them: syntax (i.e. sentence structure).

Generally speaking, sentences can be broken down into three categories:




The types of sentences you choose to use directly affect the voice you’re creating in your writing.

On the top of a fresh sheet of paper in your writer’s notebook, write a simple sentence. For example,

The girl cried softly.

Now, take the sentence you just wrote, and make it a compound sentence. For example,

The girl cried softly, but the little boy didn’t notice.

Now, take the sentence you just wrote, and make it a complex sentence. For example,

The girl cried softly as the little boy continued playing with his trucks.

Reflect on your own writing. Do you tend to use a certain type of sentence or do you vary them? What kind of sentence do you prefer and why?

Let’s look at the essays again. Pick one and label (identify) the types of sentences the author uses. Look for patterns. Does anything stand out to you? How are they using syntax (sentence structure) to help create voice and get a point across?

With the time remaining, start doing some pre-writing with your brainstorming ideas while I begin conferencing with you about your writing goals and index cards.


Syntax: Playing with Sentence Structure

Writer’s Notebook

Daily Prompt #21: Inspiration from your peers

I could hear laughter coming from all directions. I managed to make a fool of myself again.

~ Pursuer of Thoughts

Take this two-sentence story written by a peer and incorporate it into your own piece of flash fiction.

Write for five minutes.

Let’s debrief on yesterday’s activity.  What did you discover about yourself and punctuation?  What questions do you have about when to use certain types of punctuation?

Syntax (sentence structure) is key to effective writing as well.  Knowing how to construct a variety of types of sentences grammatically correct is essential if you want to be taken seriously as a writer.

Do the great ones break the rules?  Sure.  The key though is: they know they’re doing it.  

This little “cheat sheet” is something I want you to glue, tape, or somehow attach to your writer’s notebook so you have it as a handy reference.

Now, for your writing activity, take a piece  you’ve already written and do the following:

  • Check that you have actually written your sentences grammatically correct.  If you’re not sure, ask me or a peer to check.  Many of you have minor errors on your blog posts.  It might be a good idea this Friday when we’re in the lab to check those too.
  • Change some of your sentence types to see how it affects the tone of your piece.  It’s amazing how a simple sentence in the midst of complex ones can stand out beautifully.

As  you write, I will conference with a few of you.

Happy writing!

Oh, any updates on our chain story?