Good rhythm in writing is comparable to good rhythm in music. You won’t enjoy a piece without it. Rhythm is one of the basic strategies an author uses to evoke emotion or mood in a reader. The tool. for creating a pleasing rhythm in writing is pretty basic—the sentence. How the author uses this tool determines the rhythm of her writing. Here are some ideas to promote rhythm in writing.
Vary sentence length. Alternate short, medium and long sentences.
Don’t make sentences so long readers get lost in a maze of commas, lose track of the subject and drop off to sleep before they reach the period. A good rule of thumb is to keep sentences shorter than 30 words.
Sentence fragments are useful. They provide variety, emphasis and speed where needed to evoke certain emotions. They also provide a break from medium and long sentences. Sentence fragments are essential in dialog.
Awkward sentence construction will destroy rhythm. Remember this old example: “Throw Mother from the train a kiss.” Huh?
Sometimes you may need to break some rules in your effort to gain rhythm—start a sentence with a dependent clause (When I left, he…) or a prepositional phrase (At that moment…).
Before writing a scene, consider what kind of mood you want to evoke. Longer sentences can convey an easy narrative. Short, quick, sharp sentences can convey excitement, fear, danger. Remember some sentences consist of only one word. A one word sentence of one syllable can have an impact on your reader (Bombs!).
Test the rhythm of your sentences by reading them aloud. If you find yourself stumbling and pausing then your writing has poor rhythm.
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