Multitasking Sentences – Make ‘Em Work

In a Wall Street Journal Wordcraft essay, Karen Thompson Walker, celebrated author of The Age of Miracles, observes that as a young writer, her sentences rarely did more than one thing at a time. It took her years to learn that they were meant to do more than “stand around and look pretty.” They must work hard:

Photo credit: 123RF_Lighthunter

–carry the plot, evoke images, and convey meaning through tone, meaning and voice. One more thing, “the best sentences surprise us.”

In her essay, she unpacks a few one-liners from great writers and explains that when sentences operate on multiple tracks, “the story begins to operate on multiple levels as well.”

I agree. Take a look at your sentences. Are they “bringing home the bacon, frying it up in the pan, and never ever, ever letting you forget you’re a man”? Now what does that sentence evoke?

Read the complete text of her essay, “Sentences Sentenced to Hard Labor” at:



Filed under Craft

3 responses to “Multitasking Sentences – Make ‘Em Work

  1. Thanks for connecting us with this article, Jilanne. The article does a lot in a small space, as our sentences need to, too.

    • Agreed! Thanks for taking a look. The article came to me in a somewhat roundabout way, the trigger being the latest issue of Poets & Writers magazine (July/August issue). Serendipity at work.

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