The left-handed ceramic tile cutter of writing

In the back of the top shelf of your writing toolbox, sits three writing tools that often get dusty due to neglect. This post is meant to a stepladder to help reach these tools to prepare them for more frequent use. If you’re like most people, alliteration, parallelism, and variety in sentence structure, are not the hammers, nails and wrenches of writing, but rather the left handed ceramic tile cutters of composition.

Tool #1 – Alliteration: There’s something subliminally soothing connected to the repetition of consonant sounds. There’s also something blatantly bothersome with badly built alliteration. Alliteration is the process of repeating the same consonant sound multiple times in one sentence. When done right, readers rarely notice alliteration; they just know they enjoy the writing. When writers stretch the definition of a word just to achieve alliteration, well – fingernails screeching on the blackboard comes to mind. In the example, Michael gave us many memories for munching, alliteration is achieved, but the sentence doesn’t make much sense. It’s better to avoid alliteration altogether, than to include forced construction. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers is a famous example of alliteration, but perhaps there’s too much repetition of the same sound in that sentence to be effective. Remember alliteration works because it is a treat; too many treats aren’t good for anyone. Moderation is the key.    

Tool #2 – Parallelism: The repetition of two or more of the same parts of speech within a sentence is another tool to take your writing from good to great. And like alliteration, when parallelism is done well, it is rarely noticed by the reader. Importantly, faulty parallelism is analogous to hitting a wrong note while singing a beautiful song.. In the example: The boy enjoys singing, playing, and reading, parallelism was achieved by repeating the three gerunds: singing, playing, and reading. An example of faulty parallelism is: The boy enjoys singing, playing, and he likes to eat as well. “To eat” is an infinitive phrase, so it doesn’t match the gerunds. To correct this example for parallelism, simply change “to eat” to “eating” or change “singing and playing” to “to sing and to play.”

Tool #3 – Variety in sentence structure. English prefers subject, verb object sentence construction because it is the way we speak; however combining simple sentences with compound sentences and complex sentences adds interest and rhythm to your writing. When preparing your post, you may choose to write a simple sentence (one subject and one verb):  such as: The girl enjoys reading poetry. You may choose to write a compound sentence (two independent clauses joined by a semicolon or a coordinating conjunction), such as: The girl enjoys reading poetry, and she loves creating her own poems. You may also choose to write a complex sentence (at least one dependent clause and one independent clause) such as: Because the girl enjoys reading poetry, her writing has improved significantly. Including these different sentence structures in your posts makes for more enjoyable reading. Furthermore, consider the length of your sentences. It is beneficial to include short sentences (just a few words) and longer sentences (20 to 25 words).

Many of us already have the right tools, but we forget to use them. Consider searching through your toolbox and taking out that left handed ceramic tile cutter every now and then. With the right tools, you can create a masterpiece.

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About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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5 Responses to The left-handed ceramic tile cutter of writing

  1. Robert – Once again, you have written another excellent post. I enjoy reading, learning and applying what I have learned from your posts. Since I am a left-hander myself, your left-handed ceramic tile cutter caught my attention. Have a most excellent day!


  2. victorine says:

    Thanks for reminding me to be aware of these rules. I agree that by readers will enjoy the writing and not even be aware that it was because of the writing following basic rules.


  3. OBA says:


    I got so hung up checking out the Tile Cutter. Doesn’t look left handed to me. Funny looks like my hubbies and he is right handed. LOL

    Ok Ok now I will go read what you got to say.

    Loved your analogy though, and I hate grammar LOL

  4. Pingback: infinitive phrase

  5. chris says:

    Am Chris and would like to make an order of Tile Cutters from your store and would like to know the types and sizes you carry in stock as well as the prices and the types of credit cards that you accept.
    More over i would like it to be shipped to West Africa Ghana.Hope to hear from you ASAP.


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