Back to Basics – A lesson on emphatic words

A long time ago, I learned the importance of putting the prominent word at the end of the sentence whenever possible. This is especially true for poets, who are always trying to write so that the word before the line break is emphatic.

I’ve been working on a book edit this past weekend and turned often to my favorite reference book, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White.  On page 32 (Principles of Composition) there is a section on “Place the emphatic words of  a sentence at the end.”  Here is one of the examples given:

This steel is principally used for making razors, because of its hardness.

Here’s the corrected example, placing the most prominent word at the end:

Because of its hardness, this steel is used principally for making razors.

It’s a simple little fix, but what a difference it makes! Or perhaps I should say:  What a difference can be made with a simple little fix!

Play around with your sentences. If your paragraph or sentence needs more oomph, try putting the emphatic word last and see what it can do.


  1. Pat
    Aug 2, 2011

    Hi, Angela~

    I took a class on entering writing contests from you and Andrea a few years ago. I enjoyed it very much. I have been in a writing slump for quite some time, but know that I will eventually get back to it. In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying your blogs, and feel that they are helping me so much on my journey back.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • affoster22
      Aug 2, 2011

      Thanks, Pat. I’m teaching a great class at the Loft October 1 on Finding Your Story. If you need a good jumpstart, this class will do it! It’s great to hear from you.

  2. Candace
    Aug 2, 2011

    It’s also a good idea to incorporate the same principle in writing paragraphs. End with your strongest sentence and have the last word of the sentence be as strong as you can make it.

  3. affoster22
    Aug 2, 2011

    Great suggestion, Candy. We can all use a refresher on basics now and then.

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