Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reverse That Colon!

I just want to take the time to appreciate a new writing trick I learned in Intro to Grad Studies: the reverse colon. I used it in this post to my personal satisfaction, and I felt that it warranted its own post.

Let us observe:
Time, space, death: one becomes aware of certain realities when jumping into deep water for the first time.
As opposed to:
One becomes aware of certain realities when jumping into deep water for the first time: time, space, death.
Both are certainly acceptable constructions. But it's as White discusses in his chapter "An Approach to Style" (see The Elements of Style, Ch. 5) that there are correct sentences, then there are sentences that catch the eye. Those eye-catchers have style.

The reverse colon in my example added that extra oomph. By flopping the elements of the sentence, I added a bit of mystery "Time, space, death". What on earth could I be describing? I've grabbed your attention (especially with the death element, which I have to thank Lance for--go second readers!). You want to know what could possibly follow that. Then I introduce the theme of my post, jumping into the pool.

The mystery and intrigue is removed by placing "time, space, death" at the end of the sentence. While the sentence is technically correct, it does lack a little glitter; it's wearing a denim jumper and loafers while the other one is wearing a red dress and stiletto* heels. The denim jumper goes by with a glance, the red dress gets a long stare.

Besides, it's a really neat element to use in writing. And it's so simple--you can add a little spice to your writing by simply moving around pieces of a sentence. A unique rhythm, an attention-grabbing series: both examples contain the same words, but the reader can hear a distinct difference.**

*"Stiletto" used to refer to a specific type of dagger. If you read much Gothic fiction, stilettos are almost as bountiful as castles and craggy mountains.

**Okay, so this example is a little contrived. But you get the point.

1 comment:

the secret knitter said...

Ooh, look at Miss Fancy McGrammar. :)