By David Cregar, Expository Writing Program at New York University




Let’s start with sentences. Not because they are more “basic” or simple. Just the opposite: today is about seeing more about the structures of sentences, and how those structures work in creating both meaning and affect.

Here’s a short piece about a sentence:

Sam Anderson, “New Sentences: From “The Juniper Tree,’ by Barbara Comyns”

1- Look up any unfamiliar words that you need to understand to understand this piece

2- Now write your own sentence of the form: At X and on Y, I Z as if not-Z



On the train, in the morning rush and then again home, riders slumber as if on high alert.


Now let’s try it with a text: Go to Brian Doyle’s “Joyas Volardoras

  • Use PowerNotes to highlight three sentences from Doyle that you find interesting in some way.

  • Name each of these -- in the “topic” box -- two ways: “Why” and “How.”

  • Then for each sentence, write, in the “comment” box, why you picked that sentence and then how the sentence works. What, in other words, is the deeper structure of the sentence. Try to write this in a kind of mathematical form: But if X is Y, then Z must be A.



"I have something to tell you"

There's a sense in this sentence -- more than a sense, really -- of something foreboding, the words no one ever wants to hear, the words that give you time to catch your breath, before you hear the real news.

Structure: I have X to verb Y