Don't let your writing read like a transcript from a monologue

The following first words from a series of sentences in a passage culled from an online publication inform our discussion today: "It has been a rather noisy mediascape”;  “But let us begin with the latest: the story of the twins (or is it triplets) and how their date with Citizen TV prime news went south”; “ Now, we have a specific code in media ethics governing reporting children”; “But Melon Lutenyo, Mevies Imbaya and Sharon Mathias are not children”; “But wait, maybe we should extend”; “Before then, we must adopt one rule of the thumb”;  “But what irked more during the interview”; “But let's move on".

Not only is it apparent the passage escaped editing and proof reading, the writer did not take time to organise his or her thoughts to present them in a logical manner. It is more of a transcript from a soliloquy (an involuntary monologue that has no target audience), than an explanation or rational critique. As a communicator, address your audience directly, don’t argue with yourself.

The writer begins to say something, remembers something else, jumps ahead and almost immediately recalls another thing, then jumps right back. That is what the phrases "but wait", "but let’s begin" and "before then" betray.  

The monotony in the passage stands out like a sore thumb, particularly with the conjunction 'but' appearing at the beginning of the sentences. This is the best example of how not to write, because it violates basic rules of grammar, presenting readers with a jumble of words that are, at best, a serious put-off.

Defines conjunctions

The words ‘but’, ‘and’, ‘for’, ‘so’, ‘or’ and ‘yet’ are known as coordinating conjunctions. The dictionary defines conjunctions as 'words used to connect clauses, sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause'. They function as linkages or bridges to join ideas that might be at variance.

An earlier column discussed whether it was proper to use conjunctions at the beginning of sentences despite the general belief they should not. Indeed, sentences can begin with conjunctions, but care must be taken to ensure such sentences don't end up being sentence fragments.

Ideally, a sentence must not only feature a subject and a verb, it must convey a complete thought. Sentence fragments do not convey a complete thought. They are dependent clauses. As such, if a subsequent sentence builds up on the previous one or seeks to emphasise something mentioned earlier, it would be okay to begin the sentence with a conjunction.

For example: "Little John knew he was going to get to school late; the consequence of which would be three strokes of the cane. Because of that, he placed an exercise book under the seat of his shorts to dull the anticipated pain".  Taking the first part of the sentence out renders the second part incomplete while together, they make sense.

It detracts

The conjunction 'but', besides the linking function, means 'except' when preceded by the words 'everyone' and ‘everything’. For example, “Everything but (except) the stand by the door should be taken out for auctioning". 'But' is also used to give a condition or express doubt.

For instance; "We shall clean the mess, but you must pay us first". “I will tell him the truth about his lineage, but I don't know whether he's going to believe me". Given this explanation, it is clear the word 'but' in the sentences quoted above is misplaced. It detracts, rather than add value to the narration.

The word 'now' is an adverb of time. In other words, it means; "presently", "at this moment" or "very soon".  The word can be used in the middle of a sentence and should appear between the subject of the sentence and the main verb. For example, "Boniface used to work as a photojournalist; he now doubles up as an agitator rubbing authorities the wrong way".

'Now' can also be used to introduce something new in a conversation. It can also be placed before or after imperative clauses. For example; “Now, before we start eating, let's say a word of prayer". 

Imperative clauses are words we use to tell others to do, or not to do something. They are used, not as commands or requests, but expressive of a wish. For example; "Enjoy your holiday", "Don’t be late" hence; "Now, enjoy your holiday", "Don't be late now".

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

The following first words from a series of sentences in a passage culled from an online publication inform our discussion today: "It has been a rather noisy mediascape”;  “But let us begin with the latest: the story of the twins (or is it triplets) and how their date with Citizen TV prime news went south”; “ Now, we have a specific code in media ethics governing reporting children”; “But Melon Lutenyo, Mevies Imbaya and Sharon Mathias are not children”; “But wait, maybe we should extend”; “Before then, we must adopt one rule of the thumb”;  “But what irked more during the interview”; “But let's move on".

Not only is it apparent the passage escaped editing and proof reading, the writer did not take time to organise his or her thoughts to present them in a logical manner. It is more of a transcript from a soliloquy (an involuntary monologue that has no target audience), than an explanation or rational critique. As a communicator, address your audience directly, don’t argue with yourself.

The writer begins to say something, remembers something else, jumps ahead and almost immediately recalls another thing, then jumps right back. That is what the phrases "but wait", "but let’s begin" and "before then" betray.  

The monotony in the passage stands out like a sore thumb, particularly with the conjunction 'but' appearing at the beginning of the sentences. This is the best example of how not to write, because it violates basic rules of grammar, presenting readers with a jumble of words that are, at best, a serious put-off.

Defines conjunctions

The words ‘but’, ‘and’, ‘for’, ‘so’, ‘or’ and ‘yet’ are known as coordinating conjunctions. The dictionary defines conjunctions as 'words used to connect clauses, sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause'. They function as linkages or bridges to join ideas that might be at variance.

An earlier column discussed whether it was proper to use conjunctions at the beginning of sentences despite the general belief they should not. Indeed, sentences can begin with conjunctions, but care must be taken to ensure such sentences don't end up being sentence fragments.

Ideally, a sentence must not only feature a subject and a verb, it must convey a complete thought. Sentence fragments do not convey a complete thought. They are dependent clauses. As such, if a subsequent sentence builds up on the previous one or seeks to emphasise something mentioned earlier, it would be okay to begin the sentence with a conjunction.

For example: "Little John knew he was going to get to school late; the consequence of which would be three strokes of the cane. Because of that, he placed an exercise book under the seat of his shorts to dull the anticipated pain".  Taking the first part of the sentence out renders the second part incomplete while together, they make sense.

It detracts

The conjunction 'but', besides the linking function, means 'except' when preceded by the words 'everyone' and ‘everything’. For example, “Everything but (except) the stand by the door should be taken out for auctioning". 'But' is also used to give a condition or express doubt.

For instance; "We shall clean the mess, but you must pay us first". “I will tell him the truth about his lineage, but I don't know whether he's going to believe me". Given this explanation, it is clear the word 'but' in the sentences quoted above is misplaced. It detracts, rather than add value to the narration.

The word 'now' is an adverb of time. In other words, it means; "presently", "at this moment" or "very soon".  The word can be used in the middle of a sentence and should appear between the subject of the sentence and the main verb. For example, "Boniface used to work as a photojournalist; he now doubles up as an agitator rubbing authorities the wrong way".

'Now' can also be used to introduce something new in a conversation. It can also be placed before or after imperative clauses. For example; “Now, before we start eating, let's say a word of prayer". 

Imperative clauses are words we use to tell others to do, or not to do something. They are used, not as commands or requests, but expressive of a wish. For example; "Enjoy your holiday", "Don’t be late" hence; "Now, enjoy your holiday", "Don't be late now".

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

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