Use Sentence Beginnings for Emphasis
By Tamara Passey
Remember when Mary Poppins said this:
"Our first game is called Well Begun is Half-Done."Do you think she was talking about sentence structure? I know she was teaching young Michael and Jane how to go about cleaning up the nursery--but I think she could have been dispensing some seriously good writing advice.
Wilbers says it this way in Mastering the Craft: "Beginnings and endings count more than middles." He also explains that "every sentence, like every paragraph, document, or speech--has natural stress points at the beginning and end."1 A stress point being a point of emphasis. And silly me, I thought stress points were knots in my back.
We know word choice is important in any given sentence, but so is word placement. Here are a few examples.
"I have never felt more frustrated."
Let's move one little word to the opening:
"Never have I felt more frustrated."
Can you hear the added emphasis? And we did that without adding any exclamation points.
Or this one:
"I'm telling you for the last time I won't do it."
"For the last time, I'm telling you I won't do it" (I would even omit the the phrase 'I'm telling you' for more punch: "For the last time, I won't do it."
Maybe at this point, you are thinking this isn't a very impressive technique - move one or two words around and somehow that improves the sentence? But think of it this way. Ever walk into a room full of furniture and the placement was haphazard, or boring or lacked direction and you weren't even sure where you were supposed to sit? And someone came along and rearranged the pieces and Voila! the room now had flow and became inviting for you to sit? That's placement.
And like Mary taught, "Well begun is half done." (I think she may have picked that up from Aristotle, but it sounds a bit more fun coming from her.) She also said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Imagine if she said, "Now in order to assist the medicine going down, try a spoonful of sugar." Hmm. See, she knew the power of word placement.
1. Mastering the Craft, Wilbers, p. 150