Sentence structure tips from William Shakespeare

creative writing English expository writing
By Musa

Statistical Mediation & Moderation in Psychological Research-Jan-26-2021-07-22-18-89-PMGood writers always plant important words in strong positions. 

Shakespeare has a writing hack that helps underscore key content. He often places the most important word(s) at the end of a line of verse. Let’s take a look at Prospero’s speech from the Tempest as a good example

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, 

As I foretold you, were all spirits and 

Are melted into air, into thin air; 

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, 

The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, 

The solemn temples, the great globe itself, 

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, 

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, 

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff 

As dreams are made on, and our little life 

Is rounded with a sleep. 

The last word or phrase of each line of verse crystallizes the main idea of the entire passage. Shakespeare does this so well that you only need to read the ends of the lines to understand what is happening in the speech: Actors…all spirits and…into thin air…of this vision…the gorgeous palaces…great globe itself…shall dissolve…insubstantial pageant faded…such stuff…our little life…a sleep. 

Neat trick, right? 

You can apply Shakespeare’s trick with end words and phrases in verse to your own prose. Think of the beginnings and ends of clauses and sentences as prime real estate, conspicuous places to park crucial terms. Using keywords as tent poles to nail down sentences powerfully guides your reader’s attention. Consistent strategic positioning of core terms is subtly persuasive. Done well, it will feel as if each unit of language ends with a click.

 

Cambridge Coaching was founded by doctoral candidates in English, and instruction in reading and writing is one of our particular strengths. Our tutors are published authors, as well as Ph.D candidates from the top English graduate programs in America, with most hailing from Harvard or the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop--or both.

We have a long history of helping high school, college, and graduate students become more astute critical readers and writers capable of producing their own polished academic essays. Many of our students come to us looking for help with basic composition or reading comprehension, but our expert tutors have coached our clients through everything from business English to doctoral dissertations. Whether you need to learn how to tell a participle from a pronoun, or need help making sense of Shakespeare, we can design a syllabus to suit your specific goal.

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Musa earned her PhD from Columbia University in Early Modern English Drama. She has taught at Columbia University and Washington University in St. Louis, where she was an Assistant Professor of English.

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