I’m working on a series on pacing. You can see other posts in the series here.
We’ve just looked at words. Now let’s look at phrases.
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
Our phrases here are:
- The quick brown fox
- the lazy dog
or however you want to slice that. Up to you.
The speedy umber vixen hurdles the apathetic pooch.
This is a different version of the first sentence, using different words but the same phrases. The units are the same; they’re attached the same way. It’s colored a little bit differently than the first sentence, sure, but it means essentially the same thing.
The speedy umber vixen, the farm’s femme fatale, hurdles the apathetic pooch with a grace that justifies her pillage.
This is a different version of the first sentence, using different words and different phrases. The units are not the same.
- The speedy umber vixen
- the farm’s femme fatale
- the apathetic pooch
- a grace
- her pillage
Again, you can slice this up as you like. Not only are the words generally longer or more Frenchified, there are more of them in total, in bigger structure.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
You can’t communicate the same content–that the fox is the heroine of this story, admired by the narrator, despite the loss of the eggs–with the original words or the original way the phrases were structured within the sentence. It doesn’t mean the same thing.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. She stole a dozen eggs over the last week. Nobody could catch her. Nobody bothered to try.
It’s not to say that short words and short, straightforward sentences can’t make for decent writing. It’s just that the content changes, depending on the materials you choose, and how you choose to stick them together.
The speedy umber vixen, the farm’s femme fatale, leapt her skinny ass over the apathetic dog, praying that this time she wouldn’t get caught, not with four kits back waiting for her at home.
The easiest way to think of pacing at this level is that the form reflects the content; however, it’s not always straightforward. If that was the only consideration, then the sentence above would have to be short, even shorter than the original sentence–it’s a short, smooth jump that the fox is making.
But there are other considerations. More on that later.
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