Too Many Introductory Phrases Spoil the Essay Uncategorized / Writing & Grammar

Hello everyone:

There seems to be an over abundance of introductory phrases these days. Whether you are a first semester freshman or a graduate student, they are omnipresent in essays. (I just wrote one in the last sentence; this proves my point, I would argue herein.) I almost wrote a second one in three sentences. That would have spelled disaster in the world of academic writing.

So how did I avoid writing more than one? I flipped my sentences around. You can do it, too. Let me show you what I mean. I was tempted, very tempted dear friends, to write the following:

Having just written one in my previous sentence, I just proved my point. [The introductory phrase is all the words before the word “sentence.”] This can be easily flipped to say:

I just proved my point, having just written one in my last sentence.

Do you see the difference? The introductory phrase is now at the end of the sentence, which keeps the essay from becoming boring.

Let’s try another one:

If I had written a second one in three sentences, it would have spelled disaster in the world of academic writing. [The introductory phrase is all of the words before the comma in the sentence right before this one.] I chose, instead, to write the sentence as two sentences. I also prevented another introductory phrase with the word “instead” by placing it after the subject and the verb (I chose), turning it into a parenthetic word. [There would have been an introductory word if I had put the word “instead” first in the sentence.]

Parenthetic words and phrases are those words and phrases that you stick into the middle of the sentence, rather than placing them at the end. Some folks argue that they don’t need any commas, which would make the sentence read as follows:

I chose instead to write the sentence as two sentences.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the lack of commas there, but I argue that the clarity of the sentence is enhanced by the presence of the two commas. Please note that, if you use one comma, you must use the second one. Like I just did for the parenthetic expression in the previous sentence.

I hope this helps. Remember, if you have any questions about writing, just post a comment on one of my blog postings and I will get back to you.

Best,

Dr. Sheri


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Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

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