Writing Exercises 33-35



Conjunctions and Coordination--


Just like prepositions, conjunctions are structural words; while just like prepositional phrases, coordination is a structural principle, a method for building sentences.  However, it is also axiomatic in all writing about style that meaning can be either jeopardized or abetted by the syntactical structure itself.  You should not consider form and content to be inseparable, but rather that they should reinforce one another in your writing.  In parataxis, for example, the phrases, clauses, or short sentences merely abut against one another, they touch but are not connected, their common boundary marked by a comma.


The highest good exists, it is unified, it is perfect, it is God.  (Irwin Edman)


They snipped the ribbon in 1915, they popped the cork, Miami Beach was born.  (Norman Mailer)


Then he was up again, running faster than ever, then the dogs were gaining on him again.  (George Orwell)


The last screw came out, the whole lock slid down, freeing the bolt.  (David Wagoner)


Undoubtedly, you have written innumerable structures like these at one time or another and then you were accused of using either a "run-on" or a "comma-splice," thereby being cruelly downgraded for your efforts.  Just as assuredly, though, when you were taking Composition 101/102 you deserved to be penalized!  Ah, but in Advanced Expository Writing 400 this is not always the case.  If you can design into the very semantic structure of your sentences an adequate rationale for using parataxis (both from the standpoint of form and of content), then you are perfectly free to exploit this strategy w. some impunity--or, at the very least, on those rare occasions when your instructor says that it's okay for you to do so.


EXERCISE 33 -- Study the preceding examples and then compose 2-3 sentences using parataxis.  Fit syntax to sense. For instance, abrupt or automatic links in thought often deserve to be treated in this fashion since minimal utterances seem to encourage making minimal connections.  However, you should always work w. temporal, spatial, and logical sequences for maximum clarity.



The virtual opposite of parataxis is slack coordination--an expanded series w. a conjunction (usually and) between each item and the next both to draw out the series even further and to relax the connections.  Here are some common examples:


In the kitchen they had grits and grease and side meat and coffee for breakfast.  (Carson McCullers) 


It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.  (William Faulkner)


Then, too, here is another parody of the writing style of a famous American writer:


They left the piano in the restaurant, and when they went down the elevator and out and turned into the old, hard, beat-pavement of Fifth Avenue and headed south toward Forty-fifth Street, where the pigeons were, the air was as clear as your grandfather's howitzer.  (E. B. White)


EXERCISE 34 -- Practice w. different parts of speech lined up using slack coordination in 1 short paragraph (5-6 sentences).  Be forewarned, though, that slack coordination should not become habitual.  It is an effective relief from the rigidity of most syntactical structures, but it can also develop into a nasty stylistic mannerism that can make your writing and your ideas seem repetitious, undeveloped, and inept.




A third type of coordination is the correlative conjunction, a strategy so common that you probably haven't given it much thought for over a decade or more.  The four basic correlative frames are: 1) both...and; 2) not only...but also; 3) either...or; and 4) neither...nor.  Here are two examples from among the millions in existence:


He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed.  (James Joyce)


One might say either that Swinburne's artisitc maturity was attained very early, or that his development was prematurely arrested.  (Douglas Bush)


EXERCISE 35 --  Compose 4 sentences using correlative conjunctions, i.e., write one of each type.


Compiled by Jesse Easley (2005).