Where are we going with this?

This lesson has been a lot more abstract and technical than a normal Writelike lesson, so here's a peek at where we're heading in the next lesson—complex sentences.

We began this lesson with the idea that if we only used simple sentences and connectors in our writing, it would sound clunky and repetitive:

He tapped his own life force because he wanted me dead, but he did not want to suffer, so he tried to speed up the magic, and that should have made it easier, but it did not work as intended.

We then said we needed to understand clauses in order to fix this problem. So... what do subjects, verb groups, modifiers, and objects have to do with fixing clunky writing?

Well, let's see for ourselves. Here's a short snippet that only uses simple sentences:

Scarlett choked back a scream. Bod heard her.

That pronoun, 'her', at the end of the second sentence is redundant information—it doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just remove it?

Scarlett choked back a scream. Bod heard.

It's easy enough to make sense of, but to a lot of people, this version of the snippet would sound incomplete, because we've removed an object. The verb 'to hear' needs 'a thing that is heard'.

So how could we make this sentence more efficient without sounding weird? How about this:

Bod heard Scarlett choking back a scream.

Bod heard Scarlett choking back a scream.

Bod heard Scarlett choking back a scream.

This is a simple-sounding sentence, but when you think about it we've done something clever: we've embedded Scarlett's clause into the object 'slot' of Bod's clause.

Now the verb 'to hear' has the object it needs, there's no repeated information, and as an added bonus our clauses feel more related because they are no longer two separate sentences. So efficient!

Here's a couple of things to notice about our new Scarlett clause:

  • It still has all the same clause components as it did when it was a simple sentence:
    "Scarlett choked back a scream."
    "Scarlett choking back a scream"
  • It's no longer in the past tense—in fact, technically the verb has no tense at all now!
  • It no longer makes sense on its own—"Scarlett choking back a scream" doesn't work as a sentence (because it has no tense).

The exact mechanics of how this all works is the topic of the next lesson about Complex Sentences. But hopefully this little taster has shown you why understanding clauses is going to be useful!