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Monday, June 24, 2024

How you can Write a Good Sentence


Audio Transcript

Each every so often, we discuss writing on the podcast. A number of emails over time have requested in the event you would coach aspiring writers, Pastor John. Clearly, many Christian writers gravitate to you as a grasp of the craft. That’s why, over time, APJ episodes have lined the calling to jot down, the way to write poems and write biographies, even down into the main points of grammar and punctuation, on the no-nos of ghostwriting, after which (hottest of all) on productiveness — how it’s that you just create so many books and sermons and articles and APJ episodes and all that, with recommendation for the way all Christian creators can maximize their very own output. All these matters have been properly lined prior to now, as you may see in my abstract within the new APJ guide on pages 411–16.

However we’ve by no means gotten down into the weeds of the way to write a sentence. “Sentences change lives” — you’ve mentioned that earlier than on the podcast. However out of your perspective, what makes an awesome, edifying sentence? How do you write and rewrite sentences like this? And what can be your 5 (or so) items of recommendation for crafting edifying prose, past all that we’ve already lined on the podcast — one thing related for guide authors and for Christians who simply need to ship an edifying textual content message? What would you say?

I begin with the conviction that our phrases, whether or not spoken or written, actually matter. “Demise and life are within the energy of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). That’s highly effective. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11). What number of instances have I prayed, “O God, for my youngsters, for my spouse, for my church, for my books, for my podcast, make my mouth a fountain of life.” Or as James says, the tongue is a fireplace that may set an entire forest ablaze with harmful energy (James 3:5–6). So, I begin there. That is severe. I take all my speech significantly and all my writing significantly.

And I thank God that he has spoken. He has used human language to speak himself and to speak the way to talk. So, after I ask, “What’s sentence?” I imply, “What does God must say a couple of sentence?” and “Is it good in view of his phrase?”

Listed here are my eight marks of sentence.

1. True

An excellent sentence is true. It communicates what accords with actuality; that’s, it helps folks know what’s and what must be. It’s because God himself “by no means lies” (Titus 1:2). He’s a “God of reality” (Isaiah 65:16). He has given us “the Spirit of reality” (John 16:13). Christians are folks of reality. We communicate and write true sentences.

2. Clear

An excellent sentence is obvious. It doesn’t bask in deception or vagueness. It doesn’t accept undefined ambiguities that encourage folks — like so many public figures encourage folks — to imagine opposite issues whereas they affirm your sentence. One particular person reads and says, “Oh, it means this,” and the opposite says, “It means this,” and each of them have foothold since you’ve set it up that method. That’s not a Christian method to write.

Readability stands within the service of reality. It seeks to assist folks get the clearest thought of what you imagine and try to speak. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “We refuse to observe crafty or to tamper with God’s phrase, however by the open assertion of the reality we might commend ourselves to everybody’s conscience within the sight of God.” That may be a lovely aim for each Christian author and speaker.

And just a bit qualification right here: there’s a place for intentional ambiguity at instances. For instance, if a four-year-old asks about some sexual scene within the Bible, a clever mum or dad finds an acceptable circumlocution acceptable to the age, not for the sake of deception however for the sake of helpfulness.

“A real sentence says what accords with the info, and an genuine sentence says what accords together with your coronary heart.”

And there are particular sorts of poetic effort and moments in communication, in the event you’re writing poems or simply need to be poetic in your speech, the place reality can really be served by coming at a actuality in a slanted method relatively than a direct method, which isn’t supposed to create confusion however to light up actuality. A complete different factor we might discuss is the suitable place of slant or deliberate double entendres or ambiguities. We need to assist folks towards proper pondering and proper feeling. And it is perhaps that that type of speech every now and then will try this.

3. Genuine

An excellent sentence is genuine. The distinction between a real sentence and an genuine sentence is {that a} true sentence says what accords with the info, and an genuine sentence says what accords together with your coronary heart. (And naturally, one sentence can do each, ought to do each.) We’re inauthentic to provide the impression with our sentences that we’re one thing we aren’t. It’s dishonest; it’s insincere. And the Bible says that Christians are folks of sincerity (2 Corinthians 2:17).

4. Considerate

An excellent sentence ought to be considerate. The other of considerate, as I’m utilizing it, is glib, superficial, frivolous, trifling. Many individuals deal with their language as nothing however intelligent, lighthearted banter. It fills up sound area. The Bible refers to such folks as “empty talkers” (Titus 1:10).

And I don’t imply there’s no place for humor after I say considerate. Life is commonly humorous, inevitably humorous. You can not stroll by means of days and never see one thing that’s laughable, each positively and negatively. And people conditions could be served properly with well-placed, considerate sentences that may trigger an individual to buckle over with stomach laughter.

However what I’m pleading for is that the bread and butter of our communication have substance in it. That’s, folks profit from listening to what we are saying; there’s some measure of pondering behind our sentences. That’s the aim.

5. Inventive

An excellent sentence is inventive. I don’t imply that everyone turns into a poet. I imply that we aspire over a lifetime to develop in our capability to pick out phrases and prepare phrases in recent and placing ways in which have the best affect for good on others. When Jesus referred to himself as a thief within the evening (Matthew 24:43–44) — are you kidding me? Who would dare? Who would dare to do such a factor? That was dangerous, placing, inventive, totally memorable. Mark Twain mentioned, “The distinction between the just about proper phrase and the suitable phrase is . . . the distinction between the lightning bug and the lightning.” That’s sentence, proper? It not solely is an efficient sentence; it captures the ability of the suitable phrase on the proper time.

“Abstractions and generalizations are typically boring. Concrete language tends to be arresting.”

A part of being inventive is utilizing cadences that sound pleasing. And now I’m shifting gears from selecting the phrase to picking the rhythm and the cadence. I as soon as informed an viewers at our convention right here that the title of our convention was “With Calvin within the Theater of God.” It was not “With John Calvin within the Theater of God” as a result of the phrase “John” ruins the iambic-pentameter cadence. “With Calvin within the Theater of God.” You may’t stick “John” in there. It wrecks the sound.

And lots of people assume, Why on the planet . . . ? No, no, no. Pastors, talkers, you need to think about as to if your sentences have cadences, rhythms which can be pleasing to the ear. So, there are ten syllables, 5 beats in that sentence or that title, and it simply wrecks it to place “John” in there. It doesn’t work. If you get a really feel for cadences and what sounds pleasing, you don’t even have to consider it anymore. Over time, in the event you faculty your self in attempting to be considerate in your rhythms and cadences in order that they sound pleasing, then it’s going to turn out to be pure.

A part of being inventive, once more, is concreteness. Generalizations and abstractions are boring. They’re not as efficient as particularities and specifics and concreteness. For instance, say “peach”; say “Georgia peach” relatively than “fruit.” Say “canine” relatively than “animal,” “Dusty” relatively than “canine.” Say “rain” relatively than “climate.” Say “Neptune” relatively than “planet.” Say “basketball” relatively than “sports activities.” Say “bacon” relatively than “breakfast.” Say “brown, woolen, pullover sweater” relatively than “clothes.” Say “rusty socket wrench on the oily bench” relatively than “instrument over there within the nook.” Say “John and David” relatively than “buddies.”

Abstractions and generalizations are typically boring. Concrete language tends to be arresting. When Paul says in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech all the time be gracious, seasoned with salt,” I take him to imply — not less than partly — that our speech shouldn’t be bland and tasteless.

6. Nicely-Timed

An excellent sentence is well-timed. Proverbs 25:20: “Whoever sings songs to a heavy coronary heart is like one who takes off a garment on a chilly day, and like vinegar on soda.” That’s one other good sentence. It’s simply filled with concrete language. Take off a coat on a chilly day. Put vinegar on soda, and it goes sizzle, sizzle, sizzle — makes slightly smoke. And much more particularly, Proverbs 15:23 says, “To make an apt reply is a pleasure to a person, and a phrase in season, how good it’s!” So, timing actually issues.

7. Clear

An excellent sentence is clear. The apostle Paul mentioned, “Let there be no filthiness nor silly speak nor crude joking, that are misplaced [for the Christian], however as a substitute let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). Grateful hearts don’t communicate or write soiled sentences. Our sentences don’t have to be sinful so as to take sin significantly. There are highly effective and inventive methods to talk of the corruption and wickedness of the world with out taking part in it.

8. Loving to Individuals, Glorifying to God

Lastly, quantity eight — and I’d add that this casts a web over all seven of the others — the intention of the great sentence is to like folks and glorify God. “Whether or not you eat or drink, or no matter you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And I feel that will imply, “Whether or not you eat or drink or write sentences, do all to the glory of God.” And along with that, Paul says, “Let all that you just do be executed in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). We would like folks to be helped. We need to assist folks towards their everlasting happiness, and we need to make God look nice. That’s what good sentences are for.

That’s good. It looks as if your poetry coaching additionally skilled your ear for cadence in prose. Is that true?

I feel it’s, sure. And I feel it’s good that everyone simply has slightly little bit of publicity to that type of language the place the writer, a poet, has given severe thought to the cadences. And lots of fashionable poetry doesn’t work at that.

“The intention of the great sentence is to like folks and glorify God.”

So, you’ve obtained to return a couple of centuries to see the way it’s executed, as a result of these guys from 300 years in the past, they didn’t try this as a result of it was boring. Alexander Pope wrote the way in which he wrote in iambic tetrameter and these couplets — web page after web page, like a whole bunch of strains — as a result of it was being eaten up. Individuals learn it. Individuals don’t learn poetry immediately, however they did in these days.

A misplaced artwork that helps us with prose.

I feel so.

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