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Spellbinding Sentences by Barbara Baig

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Chapter 9

Making Phrases

When you write, you make a point not by subtracting, as though you had sharpened a pencil, but by adding.

—John Erskine

One of the most important characteristics of the English language is the way we group words together and pause slightly at the boundaries between groups. In his excellent book The Movement of English Prose, Professor Ian Gordon calls this grouping process “segmentation”; he shows it’s been part of our language since its earliest days, spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons. These groupings—what I’ve been referring to as phrases—are not random: word-groups are created and pauses are made in order to create meaning. So, while we need to know how to choose individual words, if we want to excel as writers, ...

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