I was first introduced to The Art of Styling Sentences by Ann Longknife and K.D. Sullivan in an IWU undergraduate writing class with Dr. Mary Brown, whose professional accomplishments and character became synonymous with my ambitions. If I didn’t say, “I want to be a professor,” I would say, “I want to be the next Dr. Brown.” In one semester, my writing transformed. That’s not an overstatement. My first paper from her course Sentence Strategies and the last paper shows growth that seems impossible for a 16 week semester. She designed the course using Longknife and Sullivan’s book as a platform for other exercises and lessons on writing.
I have revisited that book several times. I used it as an undergrad to design lesson plans. I used the book when I taught middle school language arts. I have used it in graduate school for certain assignments. Now, I’m revisiting and looking at it through a different writing lens. In doing so, I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who cares about writing.
- The Breakdown of Sentences
The teacher in me appreciates the examples and formula type approach. This allows one’s understanding of the parts of speech to enhance the ability to create varied and more complex sentence structures. They also include necessary punctuation within those formulas.
Ex: A compound sentence’s formula looks something like this: S V ; S V.
- The Explanation and Examples
In addition to the formula, the authors detail how those sentence structures function by providing their own examples (plus professional and published ones) on how to use their sentence patterns correctly. There are TONS of examples for each lesson and sentence pattern, which I love. By providing an assortment of examples, the authors deepen the readers’ understanding of how to arrange ideas within a sentence by sequence, causation, explanation, etc.
- The Checkpoint Section: What Not to Do
Most checkpoints are reminders for that specific pattern, but some expand on common mistakes. A few of these feel easy to me, but I can see the use in practicing identifying errors in writing. What I do appreciate is the extended discussion on how some tricky punctuation works (like the dash or the colon), which is always a nice reminder.
- Application of Lessons
The authors also allow space for the readers to practice the lessons for themselves. Again, the teacher in me geeks out over this. Other people might find it elementary and reminiscent of a school workbook, but I love that I can continue the lesson using my ideas with the pattern that I just learned. They use a fill-in-the blank type practice and a blank space for notes as you identify their sentence patterns while you read other works. I use that second space to practice my own full sentences.
- The Extras
After the 20 patterns are discussed at length (including the deliberate fragment, which I LOVE), the book goes a step further by providing more resources for writers. The authors discuss style, expanding sentences, the use of figurative language, and a chance to identify all 20 patterns in a single piece of writing. Plus, there is a large section with examples on each piece of punctuation. Commence geek out.