Style Guid#4: Contrasting Syntax

The flexibility of the English language, in terms of syntax, diction, rhetoric choices allow authors freedom in their writing.  Writers often utilize the freedom to craft multifarious pieces that demonstrate their character, and their unique identity as writers. As a result, writers can choose different techniques to achieve different purposes. The Storium projects, in particular, The Tape, and Unexpected Love demonstrate extensive use of contrasting syntax to set the atmosphere, and enrich the audience’s reading experience. Though some may suggest that varying syntax may obstruct the rhythm, and reduce the audience’s comfort as it hinders the audience from completing the basic step- comprehension. Sudden changes in syntax also cause the audience to omit certain details, for they are accustomed to the previous pace; however, it’s only through these changes that the reading experience becomes engaging. By keeping syntax choices like diction and sentence length constant, the piece is deprived of its individuality, and the experience becomes banal. It’s through their use of varying sentence lengths that the authors of The Tape, and Unexpected Love surprise the audience, and strengthen emotional connection within the readers. These varying syntaxes shouldn’t be avoided, but embraced for their effects on engaging the audience.

In The Tape, the authors make use of varying sentence structure and contradicting sentence length to enhance the suspenseful atmosphere. For example: “As I make my way down the hallway, I notice a shuffling noise coming from the closet. I have the sudden urge to look inside.” (4EverGreen. Et al, Scene 2). Here, after experiencing the strange ominous sensations inside the basement while fixing the power source of the house, Stacy notices an unsettling shuffling from inside a closet, and decides to determine its source. Here the first sentence is constructed using a dependent clause, followed by an independent clause, while the second one with only an independent clause. As can be seen, in terms of syntax, the first sentence is more complicated than the second.

Placed next to the first sentence with its relatively more complicated sentence structure, the second sentence demonstrates an abrupt change in pace of the narrative. Succeeding a long sentence with a short one, the authors manipulate the audience, and create an ominous and suspenseful atmosphere by accelerating their heart rate. This technique adheres to a trick used in horror movies, with its background music. Upon the imminent scare, directors will insert music that have slowly increasing beats, causing the audience’s gradually speeding hearts to contradict with the pace of the action. In The Tape, this technique is used in a similar manner. The shortening in syntax, compared to the reduced pace in narrative is analogous to Stacy’s hesitation of opening the closet, and the audience’s speeding hearts, creating tension. This technique creates discomfort and anxiety within the audience, enhancing the readers’ experience while reading.

Similarly, in Unexpected Love, the authors also utilize the juxtaposition between syntax complexity. For example: “Jack whispers to his brothers as they stalk behind her, like pestering flies. VERY large and muscular flies.” (TheArtist14. Et al, Scene 2) Here, Marissa is walking through prom, with the Jock Triplets- Jack, Steve, and Max- creeping up behind her. The sentence structure varies again. The first sentence is an independent clause, while the second, a sentence fragment. The first contains prepositional phrases, as well as a simile, while the second only names a noun as the subject; however, the second sentence includes capitalized words, which accentuates the short phrase, juxtaposing the syntax even further.

This rhetorical choice creates humorous mood. Just like it did in The Tape, the abrupt syntax change surprises the audience, for they’re used to reading long and complicated sentences. Its effect is like the humorous cliché in a movie, where the scene stops moving with the “record scratch” sound effect in the background, all sounds become muted, and the narrator makes a jocular or ironic remark- the freeze frame effect. The change in syntax highlights the eye catching, awkward trio tagging behind Marissa, creating the visual incongruity, and ironic impression. Some may argue that this breaks the conventions of a school drama. Normally, the Jocks are supposed to be the ones sought after by their band of admirers. They’re supposed to be the stars of the school, who nonchalantly swaggers, bathing in the praise and popularity; however, by having the jocks swarm around one girl, the authors purposefully break the stereotype, and reverse their roles, which supports their claim that Marissa is the most beautiful girl in the school.

Similarly, the authors’ breaking of grammar conventions also supports the comedic effect. To the audience who are used to the strict grammatical rules shown up till now, the sentence fragment is surprising. The fragment serves as a repetition, as well as a modifier of the previous simile that compares the Jocks to a swarm of flies. Its statement: “VERY large and muscular flies” contradicts with our impression of flies as small and pestering insects, conveying the sense that these jocks are hard to ignore.

Without the use of these varying syntax, the stories wouldn’t be able to convey the strong emotions of the characters, and create the mood of the scene as effectively. Subsequently, the pieces wouldn’t have the same emotional impact on the audience as it does now. Yes, in some instances, these varying syntax choices may break grammatical and stylistic conventions, but they remain useful in elevating the story from just a school project to an emotional and compelling piece.







Works Cited:

4EverGreen, P1xie_Stranger, sophieahn, showersensation. “The Tape”. Storium. Scene 3.  /game/group-4–2/act-1/scene-2.

TheArtist14, FinesseGod3416, I_AM_ME, dann59. “Unexpected Love”. Storium.