Periodic Sentence And Anastrophe – What’s The Difference?
A periodic sentence and anastrophe are similar because both change the normal order of words.
The difference is that one works at a sentence level and the other at a word level.
For writers, they are two essential grammar tools to help add emphasis or surprise a reader.
When you understand how they work, it’s very easy to modify sentences or clauses to add more variety to your writing.
The difference between a periodic sentence and an anastrophe
A periodic sentence moves the main point of a sentence to the end to create more emphasis.
In its simplest form, the subject of a typical sentence moves.
Here’s a quick example that shows how simple it is to use.
Studying grammar is by far the best way for new writers to improve. (Normal sentence)
By far, the best way for new writers to improve is by studying grammar. (Periodic sentence)
But for anastrophe, the change is in the standard word order.
Under a cloudless sky, we watched the sunset over the shimmering ocean. (Normal sentence)
Under a sky cloudless, we watched the sunset over the shimmering ocean. (Anastrophe)
As you can see, the similarity is that both reorder standard grammar.
But the main difference is that one changes word order, and the other a sentence.
Periodic sentence examples
Because it is an easy literary device to use, it is very common in fiction.
You have probably read them many but perhaps not realized that the form had a grammatical name.
Here are some well-known examples.
“Unprovided with original learning, uninformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved — to write a book.” – Edward Gibbon in Memoirs of My Life
“In the almost incredibly brief time which it took the small but sturdy porter to roll a milk-can across
the platform and bump it, with a clang, against other milk-cans similarly treated a moment before, Ashe fell in love.” – P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh
“In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.” – Frank Herbert, Dune
But you don’t need to be a talented author to create sentences like these.
Take these two example sentences.
When you want to try your hand at writing periodic sentences, take any sentence you have written and move the starting clause to the end.
Take any sentence you have written and move the starting clause to the end when you want to try your hand at writing periodic sentences.
Now you can see how easy it is to change a loose sentence to a periodic sentence.
Changing the expected order of words can add more emphasis to clauses or short sentences.
“And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm.” – Ronald Reagan, 1989 Farewell Address
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.” Yoda, Star Wars
“Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer.” – Prime Minister Winston Churchill
You can find many examples like these.
But you can create your own very quickly, as my example below shows.
I’m a writer, not a scholar.
A writer I am, a scholar I am not.
Adding more emphasis to your writing
For any writer or author, it’s quite easy to create periodic sentences and anastrophes.
They both have the advantage of quickly adding much more grammatical variety to your writing.
You can move the most important part of a sentence or clause to emphasize a point.
All it takes is a little imagination and creativity to change standard subject-verb-object sentences.
Another similar grammar device is a cleft sentence.
While it is not strictly a periodic sentence, cleft sentences add emphasis and perform a comparable function.
Here’s a quick example.
Henry enjoys going to the gym. (Normal)
What Henry enjoys is going to the gym. (Cleft)
It’s going to the gym that Henry enjoys. (Cleft)
The list of grammar points and literary devices is very long.
So, no writer can know them all.
But these two related points are near the top of my list of useful writing tips to know how to use.
When you have them in your toolbox, they will help you quickly extend your writing skills.
Keep them top of mind, and look for opportunities to either reorder a sentence or change the expected order of words.
Related reading: A Comma Before Because After A Negative Clause
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