Often, once the semester gets along, my students start asking me questions about grammar and style, not for their grades, but for their own writing. A big one is, “Can you have a single sentence stand alone as a single paragraph?” When I am able, and when classroom technology permits, I’ll pull up on a projected screen a sentence from some article I read that day that might serve as an example. I had mentioned this classroom practice to a group of incredibly inspiring writing teachers at the NCTE/CCCC conference last week, and I got some validating responses. Here’s an example: In today’s NY Times, I saw a sentence in an article about new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements. The first three sentences of the piece are stand-alone grafs. I particularly like the second one, about which there is so much to say. We could discuss the sneaky way the writers packs the sentence’s complete subject to get in as much info as possible before the verb; we could discuss the choice to omit the serial comma — does it add or detract from clarity?; we could discuss the choice to use the right-branching parallel compound structure that concludes the graf. Sometimes, when I’m really on my game, I can bring the entire lesson plan into such impromptu discussions. Lucky to have such curious students. Here’s the news-making sentence:
“The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.”
Find the article here.