A sentence is a group of words arranged in a certain order which, when tied together, conveys an idea, a description, or an event. Syntax is the structure of a sentence. Easy, right? Maybe not.
Every sentence has to have a subject (noun) and a predicate (verb)--we all know that. But do you know the differences between simple, complete, compound, and complete-compound subjects and predicates? How about dependent and independent clauses? Or direct and indirect objects? Modifiers and appositives? Are you familiar with the typical word order in a sentence? Can you differentiate between the basic sentence structures: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences? Can you identify the four types of sentences--declarative, imperative, interrogatory, and exclamatory? Do you know what sentence fragments are? And how about those pesky run-on sentences?
Did you ever consider how much there is to know about writing just one sentence? Probably not. HOWEVER, if you want to impress your readers, you should be aware of the multitude of opportunities presented to you through the use of syntax. As ridiculous as it sounds, syntax is something you should consider practicing. Take the following example: The boy rode his bike. The boy rode fast. The boy hit a bump. The boy fell off his bike. The boy scraped his elbow. The boy also scraped his knee. The boy's knee and elbow hurt. The boy cried. These sentences serve the purpose of expressing an event. So what's wrong with them? They are really b-o-r-i-n-g. Syntax is what allows us, as authors, to make something as simple as getting scraped up in a bike accident more than merely a recitation of facts.
If it has been a while since you thought about syntax (sentence structure), it might be a good exercise for you to rewrite the sentences in the example in several ways so you can practice using different methods of saying the same thing in several ways. We all fall into the trap of not using syntax as well as we could; we end up writing things the same way time after time. "But that's my style," you say. Guess what......your style is not dictated by your lack of originality in writing things more interestingly for your readers. You know the old saw: If you don't use it you lose it. The only way to keep that from happening is to practice what you think you already know. You might be surprised at how much your writing will improve if you change things up a bit.
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