Sentence Ninjas versus Sentence Robots

This session we started what will be a continuing series on the Six Traits of Writing: Ideas; Organizing Ideas; Sentence Fluency; Voice; Word Choice and Conventions (Grammar.)

Our long term goal is to equip Eagles to write clearly, convincingly and beautifully, each with an original voice that can be tuned for different audiences and genres.   We want to inspire Communication Ninjas emboldened by Ninjato Tools – named after the swords ninjas wield  — rather than Language Robots, who see each tool as a hard and fast rule.

For example, our focus this week is on Brevity in Sentence Fluency.

A Sentence Robot hears a suggestion like “try short sentences” as a hard and fast rule, and makes every sentence short.  A Sentence Ninja uses sentence crafting tools to tease out and clarify ideas from a sentence, and then decides whether to string ideas together in a rhythmic way or let some ideas stand alone.

Eagles worked in groups of six on Tuesday, breaking a handful of long sentences into individual ideas.  Some then recombined the ideas; others let them stand alone, with much arguing and discussion about which approach yielded the best results.

For example, Eagles reworked this sentence: “I killed him even though didn’t want to because he gave me no choice.”

Some struggled before one Eagle identified the first idea as: “I killed him.”

An Eagle who was passionate about film, argued for this version: “I killed him even though I didn’t want to.  He gave me no choice,” before realizing that no character would ever speak this way.

This led to a more pleasing revision: “I killed him.  I didn’t want to; he gave me no choice.”

Eagles practiced the following steps:

  • Ninjato Brevity move #1: Break down into exactly one idea per sentence.
  • Ninjato Brevity move #2: Remove unnecessary words.
  • Ninjato Brevity move #3: Recombine in a way that delivers ideas in a logically powerful and/or rhythmically beautiful form.

Then Eagles performed surgery on the following sentence, written by a Guide as part of the new Badge Requirements: “Do your best work and be sure to contribute details from your own life and examples and quotes from the lives of heroes you respect because these apprenticeship pieces will go into your Apprenticeship PLP and be part of your first Apprenticeship Badge.”

Why not give it a try yourself, and see if you qualify as a Sentence Ninja?

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