Syntax & Syl ● la ● bles

I’m a wordsmith at heart, and people often ask me the secret behind the musicality of my language.

Easy answer: syntax and syllables.

Regardless of style, the key to lyricism lies in the structure of sentences and the beats per words.

  • For instance, if you have a paragraph like this—

Subject verb. Subject verb. Subject verb. Subject verb. Subject verb.

—you have a monotonous paragraph.

  • If you have a paragraph like this—

Subject verb. Subject verb, subordinate clause. Subject verb. Subject, subordinate clause, verb. Subject verb.

—you have a more rhythmic paragraph.

  • If you have a paragraph like this—

Subject verb. Subject verb, subordinate clause. Subject verb. Subject, subordinate clause, verb, subordinate clause. Subject verb. Subject verb, coordinate clause.

—you have an objectively diverse and dynamic paragraph. The same applies to syllable counts within those sentences.

You don’t have to understand meter to know when it’s off; you’ll hear it. Most people think a word by itself is an issue of a sentence, but it’s how the word fits into the sentence that makes it work or not. If you have a sentence with mostly 1-, 2- and 3-syllable words, tossing a 5- or 6-syllable word into the mix will definitely screw up the flow of the sentence.

(Note: Beyond building rhythm through varied sentences and correlated syllables, parallelism is a great tool to aid with cadence.)

Here’s an example of inserting words into syntax formats:

This paragraph is dull. It does not flow. I only use one sentence structure. Do you hear that? The lack of rhythm? Me too.

This paragraph is smoother. I’m taking time to diversify my sentences, to give my words options. Everything sounds better. Words aren’t meant to be confined to a single structure, to do the same thing again and again and again. They need freedom.

This paragraph is best, the way I allow my words to roam from one structure to the next. They’ve been waiting for this moment since the day I locked them into one agonizing format, since the day I needed them for an example. No longer are they prisoners of my poor use of syntax. They are truly free, as they were always meant to be.

Figure out the way you like to read syntax, create formulas, and plug words in. TRY IT!

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