Purdue University North Central Writing Center Handout
and Arrangement of Words for Achieving Emphasis:
A. The bluntest way to emphasize something is by using words which openly tell the reader that the phrase or clause is important: especially, particularly, crucially, most importantly, or above all.
comes through repetition of key words and can be especially effective in a
See your good times come to color in minutes: pictures protected by an elegant finish, pictures you can take with an instant flash, pictures that can be made into beautiful enlargements.
C. When a tightly structured pattern such as in the previous example is broken, the varied part will be emphasized.
Murtz Renta-car is first in delivery, first in customer service, and last in customer complaints.
D. Besides disrupting an expectation set-up by the context, you can also work emphasis into a sentence by departing from the basic structural patterns of the language.
The merchants protested the new taxes.
By changing this common sentence pattern, the writer can emphasize “merchants.”
It was the merchants who protested the new taxes.
Remember that within the common subject-verb-object pattern certain
positions are more emphatic than others. Specifically,
initial and terminal positions are emphatic, and, therefore, the most important
elements should be placed in those slots.
Consider the following examples:
No one can deny that the computer has had a great effect upon the business world.
In this example, “No one can deny” and “on the business world” are the most emphatic elements. The writer has unconsciously embedded the most important ideas in a dependent clause—“that the computer has had a great effect.”
Consider the revision:
Undeniably, the computer’s effect upon the business world has been great.
This revision correctly places the most important ideas in the independent clause and in the initial and terminal slots of the sentence.
II. Arrangement of Clauses for Achieving Emphasis:
Since the terminal position in the sentence carries the most weight and since the independent clause is more emphatic than a dependent clause in a complex sentence, the writer should place the dependent clause before the independent clause to give maximal emphasis to the independent clause.
Consider the following examples:
I believe both these applicants are superb, even though it is hard to find good secretaries nowadays.
Even though it is hard to find good secretaries nowadays, I believe both these applicants are superb.
Position and Variation for Achieving Emphasis:
short sentence following a long sentence (or a sequence of long sentences) is
Compare the following two paragraphs:
long time, but not any more, Japanese corporations used Southeast Asia merely as
a cheap source of raw materials, as a place to dump outdated equipment and
overstocked merchandise, and as a training ground for junior executives who
needed minor league experience.
2. Japanese corporations, for a long time, used Southeast Asia merely as a cheap source of raw materials, as a place to dump outdated equipment and overstocked merchandise, and as a training ground for junior executives who needed minor league experience. This practice, however, is no longer observed.
The second version emphasizes an important idea by placing it in an independent clause and referring to it at the end of the paragraph.
B. Varying sentences by using a question after a series of statements is another way of achieving emphasis.
The increased number of joggers, the booming sales of exercise bicycles and other physical training devices, the record number of entrants in marathon races—all clearly indicate the growing belief among Americans that strenuous, prolonged exercise is good for their health. But is it?