Writers also use syntactic tension—the withholding of syntactic closure-- to engage readers. Sentences that delay closure are called periodic sentences . Periodic sentences carry high tension and interest: the reader must wait until the end of the sentence to understand the meaning. Here’s an example: As long as we ignore our children and refuse to dedicate the necessary time and money to their care, we will fail to solve the problem of school violence . By using the syntactic tension of a periodic sentence, this writer places the emphasis in this sentence on the problem. We can’t understand this sentence until we read all the way to the end word. In contrast, sentences that reach syntactical closure early ( loose sentences ) relieve tension and allow the reader to explore the rest of the sentence without urgency. Note the difference in tension when we change the sentence to a loose sentence: We will fail to solve the problem of school violence as long as we ignore our children and refuse to dedicate the necessary time and money to their care . The emphasis here is on the cause of failure. Repetition is another way writers achieve syntactical focus. Purposeful repetition of a words, phrase, or clause emphasizes the repeated structure and focuses the reader’s attention on its meaning. Repeating parallel grammatical forms such as infinitives and prepositional phrases balances parallel ideas and give them equal weight. Punctuation is another way writers can manipulate syntax to reinforce meaning, construct effect, and express their voice. Of particular interest in shaping voice are the semicolon, colon, and dash. The semicolon (;) gives equal weight to independent clauses in a sentence; the resulting syntactical balance reinforces parallel ideas and imparts equal weight to both clauses. The colon (:) directs reader attention to the words that follow. A colon sets the expectation that important, closely related information will follow, and words after the colon are emphasized. The dash (--) marks a sudden change in thought or tone, sets off a brief summary, or sets off a parenthetical part of the sentence. A dash often conveys a casual tone. Tone : Expression of attitude. It is the writer’s (or narrator’s) implied attitude towards his subject and audience. Tone is created by word selection (diction) and arrangement of words (syntax) and by purposeful use of details and images. Tone sets the relationship between reader and writer. Tone is usually described with an adjective, such as one of the following: affectionate, angry, anxious, apprehensive, approving, ardent, bitter, calm, confident, confused, disrespectful, exhilarated, joyful, sympathetic, etc. Understanding tone is requisite to understanding meaning. Identifying and analyzing tone requires careful reading, sensitivity to diction and syntax, and understanding of detail selection and imagery.
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