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Primer style is characterized by too many short sentences. It is important to note that there is nothing inherently wrong with short sentences. Too many of them in a small space, however, can remind readers of material they read in kindergarten or first grade: See Dick. See Dick chase Jane. See Jane run.
Used within a mix of sentences cut to various lengths, short sentences can be extremely effective as they are capable of focusing the reader’s attention on a particular point. Look at this one. See? A quick review of your text, however, could reveal an overabundance of short sentences and the need to combine some of those sentences into longer structures. Variety and rhythm are the keys here: long sentences, average sentences, short sentences. (See the separate section on Sentence Variety.)
Another symptom of primer style is a proliferation of verbs that don’t do anything. There’s nothing wrong with the sentence, “I am a student,” but nothing is really happening in that sentence. A large section of text in which there are only intransitive or linking verbs that express being but no action is just asking readers to turn off the dial of their attention and go read something else. Sentences weighed down with a preponderance of linking verbs can often be eliminated or embedded into larger, more complex and interesting structures.
For example, the two sentences:
- My sister is an engineer.
- My sister works for the state.
can be combined to read:
- My sister works as an engineer for the state.
- My sister, an engineer, works for the state.