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The Writer’s Reference Book


Module E – Emphasis – Hint Sheet

In writing, emphasis is a technique that helps the writer transmit exactly what he or she wants to say with all the power and force with which he or she wants to say it.

Appropriate use of emphasis makes the writer's idea clear rather than ambiguous.

  • Example: Arnold cleaned the pool and kidnapped Rose. (Ambiguous)
  • Arnold, the pool man, kidnapped Rose. (Clear)

Emphasis in sentences can be achieved through:

  • Vivid Language – Use caution
  • CAPITAL LETTERS – Will you please be QUIET? Use these devices sparingly.
  • Exclamation points – This is amazing!
  • Dashes – No one–including Henry–is free from suspicion.
  • Italics or Underlining – Cinderella was the most beautiful woman at the ball. I told you to wear a raincoat.
  • Avoid emphasis through exaggeration: Patrick is the sweetest, funniest, smartest man in the whole world.

Other Emphasis techniques for sentences:

  • Shifts in Word Order
    • Stress on Modifier – Ellen gazed at the moon, silvery and round. (adjective shift); Longingly, the puppy gazed at the food. (adverb shift)
    • Stress by Inversion – What big eyes you have, Grandma!
    • Stress by Voice – A large donation was given by the Nelson family. (passive); The Nelson family gave a large donation. (active)
    • Stress on Predicate – Friendly he is not.
    • Stress on Verb Form – To err is human, to forgive divine.
    • Stress on Natural Subject – There must be a thousand escape routes to take.
  • Subordination
    • (Coordinated) They went to the experimental theater, and enjoyed themselves,
    • (Subordinated) Although they went to the experimental theater, they enjoyed themselves.
  • Parallelism
    • I came, I saw, I conquered. (parallel listing)
    • My home is your home. (parallel through antithesis)
  • Periodic Structure
    • (Loose form) Dorian was a likeable person despite his many shortcomings.
    • (Periodic) Dorian, despite his many shortcomings, was a likeable person.
  • Emphasis in a paragraph
    • Rule 1: To achieve emphasis in paragraphs, writing must be unified, coherent and adequately developed.
    • Rule 2: Ideas should be presented in the most emphatic order from least important to most important

    Emphasis in a paragraph can be achieved through:

    • Structure Proportion – The most important point is the most developed.
    • Repetition of ideas or themes
    • Parallelism
    • Climactic Order Direct Statement
    • Deductive presentation or Inductive presentation
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