The Secrets of Syntax

The Secrets of Syntax

with Frances Peck

We’ve all flipped a sentence around, or dismantled it and then recombined it, only to discover better clarity, emphasis, rhythm, or flow. Why does that happen, and how can we become more adept at manipulating word order—or syntax—to improve prose? This seminar looks at syntax from various angles, including how to shape it for different documents, styles, and readers.

This seminar will appeal to editors, writers, and rewriters at all levels of experience. Drawing on real-life examples, participants will discuss the effects of different sentence structures and experiment with syntax in short exercises. By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to

  • Identify the types of sentences that do and don’t work well for certain genres and audiences
  • Rearrange syntax to clarify meaning and retain focus
  • Use word order to build anticipation, humour, suspense, and emotion
  • Improve the rhythm and flow of prose using special syntactic techniques
  • Explain which grammatical structures emphasize ideas and which minimize them


Workshop Outline

  • Recognizing regular English syntax and the basic ways of varying it
  • Understanding when certain no-nos (e.g., inversion, passive voice) can be effective
  • Identifying what creates rhythm and learning how to shape it
  • Improving flow by using echo words and other word-order tactics
  • Using special techniques such as subordination, coordination, ellipsis, and isolation to create emphasis, interest, or surprise


Frances Peck is a Certified Professional Editor (Hon.) and writer who has worked with words for over 25 years. She prepared the Canadian edition of The St. Martin’s Workbook, a grammar exercise book; co-authored the popular HyperGrammar website; and wrote Peck’s English Pointers , a collection of articles and quizzes available on the Language Portal of Canada. A partner with West Coast Editorial Associates, Frances teaches at Douglas College and UBC and gives workshops across Canada. She is also a sometime blogger and a fiction writer.

Date & Time: Apr 22, 2017 10:00 AM to
Apr 22, 2017 05:00 PM
[America/Vancouver UTC -8]


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Location: BCIT Downtown Campus
Room 810
555 Seymour Street
Vancouver B.C.

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Registration Closes: Apr 14, 2017 11:59 PM

Event Coordinator:

EAC-BC Branch Coordinator
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