Get to Know the Authors

Monday, May 4, 2015


by Valerie Ipson

There's a simple equation for today's lesson: "Distance determines effort. The longer the distance between subject and verb, the harder your reader must work." MTC 1 italics added

You're right, the lesson is kind of a no-brainer. Readers won't get the meaning of your sentence until they make a subject-verb connection. They want/need to know who is doing something and what they're doing. Throw in all the fluff and puff you want (within reason), but it's the subject/verb that gives the you something to sink your teeth into. [I could type out some very, extremely-lengthy examples, but I won't. Check out mastering the Craft's Lesson 18 and you'll find some.]

But as with any writing rule, RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN! EVEN THIS ONE! Consider that sometimes an INTENTIONAL delay works because it creates emphasis. Example: "The tall, skinny man, who had just polished off three double cheeseburgers, two large fries, and a super-sized soda, ordered another round." MTC 2

That's a whole lot of fast-food calories in between man and ordered, but the sentence works.

MTC, 1: p.97
MTC 2: p. 98

Tamara: And I thought I was the only one that included food pictures in my posts. I have no idea why this analogy popped into my head as I read your post, but I thought of couples ice skating in the Olympics, where they have strict rules about how far away from each other they can be. Maybe I need to start thinking of my verbs and subjects that way. Except for the allowable, dramatic moves of course!


  1. Great analogy, Tamara! I like it.

  2. The one thing that stands out to me is 'distance determines effort'. If my reader has to muddle through a bunch of verbiage on the way from the subject to the verb, it takes a lot of work. Reading should be effortless in this way. Any to piggy-back off Tamara's ice skating competition analogy (noun stack), the amount of time spent in those 'allowable, dramatic moves' is small compared to the time the skaters are close. So should our subject-verb writing be.