AMiable Solution #237: How Insertive are You?
Most of us have a pattern, or at least a preference, to the way we write sentences. Some of us are prone to long, comma-filled sentences. Some of us prefer short, straight-to-the-point sentences. Some of us find it hard to not begin most sentences with an introductory phrase or two.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these patterns. However, if you really want to engage your readers--whether they’re customers, prospects, or colleagues--you need to incorporate multiple sentence patterns into your writing and learn to use them wisely.
The most basic sentences have a subject and a predicate (verb). You could write a brochure full of basic sentences, and although there would technically be nothing wrong with that, it could get a little boring for the reader. Cue the phrase! Phrases help make sentences interesting by injecting additional information, adding emphasis, or providing a brief explanation for something mentioned. You can do this three ways.
For starters, you could start your sentence with a phrase (a left-branching sentence), as Coca-Cola did in this sentence from its online product description: “Created in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia, by Dr. John S. Pemberton, Coca-Cola was first offered as a fountain beverage at Jacob's Pharmacy by mixing Coca-Cola syrup with carbonated water.”
Or you could add your phrase to the end of the sentence, like in this line from Land’s End’s men’s page: “They’re our new Deck Shorts -- proving Dad doesn’t have to sacrifice good looks for comfort this summer.”
You can even insert your phrase mid-sentence, like The American Cancer Society did in its online public service article, “Are Some People More Likely to Get Skin Damage from the Sun?:” “People with light skin are much more likely to have sun damage, but darker-skinned people, including people of any ethnicity, can also be affected.”
Just be sure to place your phrases correctly into your sentences to avoid creating dangling modifiers, a.k.a. misplaced modifiers, which attach the information to the wrong subject (“When purchasing a cellular phone, many people become overwhelmed by the wide variety of calling plans and features,” instead of, “When purchasing a cellular phone, the wide variety of calling plans and features overwhelms many people.”). Doing so creates confusion for your reader and embarrassment for you.