Syntax means the arrangement of words and the order of grammatical elements in a sentence.  The manner in which an author constructs a sentence affects what the audience understands, so authors frequently manipulate sentence structure to enhance meaning.  For instance, short sentences are often emphatic, passionate, or flippant; whereas longer sentences suggest the writer’s more deliberate, thoughtful response; and very long, discursive sentences give a narrative a rambling, meditative tone.    



    How do you analyze SYNTAX?

    1.  Be able to describe the sentence structure.

         Telegraphic – shorter than 5 words in length

         Short - @ 5 words in length

         Medium - @ 18 words in length

         Long or involved - - @ 30 words in length


    2.  Ask yourself, what is the effect of sentence length?


    3.  Examine sentence beginnings.  Is there a good variety, or does a pattern emerge?


    4.  Examine the arrangement of ideas in a sentence.  Are they set out in a special way for a purpose?  Do the same for a paragraph.  Does the arrangement of ideas suggest a particular strategy on the part of the author?


    5.  Examine sentence patterns and purposes.

         One of the most important elements of syntax is the way the words, phrases, and clauses are arranged.  This is a key element of the author’s style and can have a marked effect on meaning.  The study and practice of sentence patterns will strengthen your own writing and will make more syntactical choices available to you, which will enrich your style and powers of expression.


    NOTE:  You would never say the writer “uses syntax” because that simply means he uses sentences.  Syntax is a category, and the techniques are listed below.  You could say the writer makes use of an anaphora or parallelism, but never syntax itself. 


         Sentence – Purpose

         Declarative sentence – makes a statement:  e.g., The king is sick.


         Imperative sentence – gives a command:  e.g., Cure the king!


         Interrogative sentence – asks a question: e.g., Is the king sick?


         Exclamatory sentence – provides emphasis or expresses strong emotion: e.g.;                                             

         The king is dead!  Long live the king!


         Sentence – Structure and Pattern

         Simple sentence - contains one independent clause: e.g.; The singer bowed to her adoring



         Compound sentence – contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction

         or by a semicolon: e.g.; The singer bowed to the audience, but she sang no encores.


          Complex sentence – contains an independent clause and one or more subordinating

          clauses: e.g., Because the singer was tired, she went straight to bed after the concert.


          Compound-complex sentence – contains two or more independent clauses and one or more

          subordinating clauses: e.g.; The singer bowed while the audience applauded, but she sang no



          Loose or Cumulative sentence – makes complete sense when brought to a close before the  

          actual ending: e.g., We reached Edmonton that morning, after a  turbulent flight and some exciting

          experiences, tired but exhilarated, full of stories to tell our friends.


          Periodic sentence – makes sense fully only when the end of the sentence is reached: e.g.,

          That morning, after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, we reached Edmonton.


          Balanced sentence -  the phrases or clauses balance each other by virtue of their likeness or

          structure, meaning, or length: e.g., He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me

          beside still waters.


          Natural order of a sentence – involves constructing a sentence so the subject comes before the

          predicate: e.g., Oranges grow in California.


          Inverted order of a sentence – involves constructing a sentence so the predicate comes before  

          the subject: e.g., In California grow the oranges



    6.  Examine Syntax Techniques

         Juxtaposition – is a poetic and rhetorical device in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or

         phrases are placed next to one another, often creating an effect of surprise and wit: e.g., The

         apparition of these faces in the crowd:/Petals on a  wet, black bough.” (“In Station of the Metro” by

         Ezra Pound)


         Antithesis  a direct juxtaposition of structurally parallel words, phrases, or clauses for the purpose

         of contrast.      


         Parallel structure – refers to a grammatical or structural similarity between sentences or parts of a

         sentence.  It involves an arrangement of words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs so that

         elements of equal importance are equally developed and similarly phrased: e.g., He loved

         swimming, running, and playing tennis.


         Omission – the removal of certain words or phrases

                       Asyndeton deliberate omission of conjunctions in a series of related clauses- it helps to

                       speed up the pace: e.g.,   I came, I saw, I conquered. (Julius Caesar)


                       Ellipsis – the deliberate omission of a word or words which are readily implied by the

                       context:  e.g., Her eyes were bright, her nose [was] a round, soft blob, her mouth [was]

                       puckered like an autumn apple.




    Polysyndeton – the deliberate use of many conjunctions for special emphasis – to highlight quantity or mass of detail or to create a flowing, continuous sentence pattern: e.g., The meal was huge – my mother fixed okra and  green beans and ham and apple pie and pickled tomatoes and salad – but no matter how I tried, I could not consume it to her satisfaction.


    Repetition – a device in which words, sounds, and ideas are used more than once to enhance rhythm

    and to create emphasis: e.g., “…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (“Address at Gettsyburg” by Abraham Lincoln)


                    Anadiplosis – the repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following

                    clause: e.g., Quite calmly, as though the old woman and her boots were nothing out of the

                    ordinary, Mrs. Murry pulled until the second boot relinquished the foot. This foot was covered

                    with a blue and gray argyle sock…


                   Anaphora – repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive

                   clauses: e.g., We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall

                   fight in the fields and in the street, we shall fight in the hills. (Winston Churchill)


                   Epanalepsis – is the repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the

                   Beginning at the beginning of the clause: e.g., “Eat!” Meg exclaimed as Mrs. Murry went 

                   through the lab.  “How does she expect me to eat?”


                   Epistrophe – the repetition of the same word or group of words at the end of successive

                   clauses: e.g., Your development has to go at its own pace.  It doesn’t happen at the usual




                   Chiasmus/Antimetabole –  a sentence strategy in which the arrangement of ideas in the  

                   second clause is a reversal of the first: e.g., To live is to read; to read is to live. or e.g., Ask

                   not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country (John F. Kennedy)


                   Inverted order of a sentence – involves constructing a sentence so the predicate comes  

                   before the subject: e.g., In California grow the oranges.  Both Yoda and Shakespeare love

                   this.  Why?  Well it creates an emphatic and rhythmic effect.


    Rhetorical Question – a question that requires no answer.  It is used to draw attention to a point and is

     generally stronger than a direct statement:  e.g., If Mr. Adams is always fair, as you have said, why did he refuse to listen to Mrs. Baldwin’s arguments?”


    Rhetorical fragment – a sentence fragment used deliberately for a persuasive purpose or to create a  

    desired effect: e.g., Something to consider.


    Stichomythia dialogue in which the endings and beginnings of each line echo each other taking on a

    new meaning with each new line: e.g.,


                  Hamlet: Now mother, what’s the matter?

                  Queen: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

                  Hamlet: Mother, you have my father much offended.

                  Queen: Come, come, you answer with a wicked tongue.

                  Hamlet: Go, go, you answer with a wicked tongue.


     Zeugma – the use of a verb that has two different meanings with objects that complement both

     meanings: e.g., He stole both her car and her heart that fateful night.”



    7. Examine other related topics


    Oxymoron – form of paradox that combines a pair of opposite terms into a single  

    unusual experience: e.g., sweet sorrow


    Paradox – occurs when the elements of a statement contradict each other.              

    Although the statement may appear illogical, impossible, or absurd, it turns out to have a coherent meaning that reveals a hidden truth: e.g., Living is dying.


    Pun – a play on words that are identical or similar in sound but have sharply diverse

    meanings.  Puns can have serious as well as humorous uses: e.g., Mercutio bleeding to death says, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.  (Romeo and Juliet)




    Some additional words for describing Syntax