Sentence Order – Save the Best for Last

When I was in Baja, I wanted to learn Spanish. I listened as hard as I could when someone spoke Spanish to me, and tried to make out the words, but mainly I remembered the first and last words they said.

When someone is giving me directions, I can best remember the first and last things they said; mainly the last.

In reading, it is often the same. We remember the last thing we heard more easily than what we heard in the middle of a story or sentence.

In writing, if you want to emphasize something or have the reader think about your main point, save it for the end of the sentence. You can put it at the beginning for emphasis too, but the end is usually more effective. Definitely do not place the important words in the middle.

Consider these two sentences. Which one makes more of an impression?

The house was engulfed in flames ten minutes before the fire department arrived.

Ten minutes before the fire department arrived, the house was already engulfed in flames.

The last word demands more of our attention.

Here is another example.

She burned the stew when she was making lunch.

When she was making lunch, she burned the stew.

And another.

When the front tire blew out, she was talking on the phone.

She was talking on the phone when the front tire blew out .

And one more.

While the people were out, Emma brought six of their shoes onto her dog bed because she was lonely.

Emma the spaniel was so lonely while the people were out that she brought six of their shoes onto her dog bed.

Sometimes it’s a subtle difference, but consider what the important part is, and, as you would with a punch line, save the best for last.

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4 thoughts on “Sentence Order – Save the Best for Last

  1. I hadn’t really thought about it much until I came across it in a writing book a few years ago. I think it can make writing more effective if it becomes a habit throughout the whole work (within reason, so it doesn’t become an obvious pattern). We don’t want to get too carried away either.

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