Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Emphasis

Emphasis has to do with placement. For this picture, the emphasis is on the light-colored leaf. The light color draws our attention because it's surrounded by dark colors, plus it's placed in the middle of the picture.

This logic can also be applied to writing in that we put what's most important where it will draw the most attention. This is called emphasis. Very often the best placement for the subject is at the beginning because that's where we announce what the sentence is about. For instance, the following sentence is pretty straightforward.

Writers are getting better.


There are times when you want the emphasis at the end of your sentence. The end of the sentence is the climatic stress and where you want to place rhetorical emphasis.

Here's an example...

It must be remembered that writers who study their craft are good and getting better.

So it all depends on where you want the emphasis in your sentence. Which do you like more? Which do you use more often, and why?



  1. I use them both. It just depends.

  2. Good point. I use emphasis where I think it has the greatest effect. Thank you visiting my blog.

    1. Petra,
      I try to as well.

      And I enjoyed getting to know you from your blog. It's great to meet new friends.

  3. Business and technical writers are often told to bury their "bad news" in the middle because the reader will be drawn to the beginning and the end of a sentence, a paragraph, or a page. I wonder how this strategy translates to fiction writing -- and to today's readers, many of whom are navigating quickly to electronic formats.

    When I'm editing, I usually try to replace "it is" or "there are" sentence starters with the real subject. So: "Writers who study their craft often improve." But then I'd be looking for proof as I've known some really good writers who seem intuitive rather than trained.

    The examples are interesting because several sentences begin with conditions the reader must understand to reach the conclusion, though I did stumble on rhetoric! Interesting post for A-Z.

    1. Beth,
      I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I, too, try to replace "it is" or "there are" whenever I can, however, there are times when the emphasis of the sentence needs to be at the end. "It" and "there" are perfectly fine to use in those cases. I think the main thing to remember is balance. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Hi Kathi
    I'm on the A to Z blog hop. Your comments on emphasis hold true for the visual arts as well. Sometimes you want to draw the eye away from the centre to a different part of the page. It gives the art a different feel.

    1. Tracy,
      That is so true not only with art but with writing. Placing the emphasis in different positions gives a completely different take on the subject. Thanks for stopping by.



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