The Third Sentence

Many creative writing classes and manuals will stress the importance of the first sentence, that it must grab the reader’s attention. Even Hemingway espoused this fallacy. But the first sentence is never enough.

Yes, it must grab the reader’s attention, If it doesn’t the reader will go elsewhere. There are plenty of options — but if the second sentence is flaccid, all will be lost. The second sentence fulfills the promise of the first.

But it is the third sentence that seals the deal. The third sentence assures the reader that the writer is authentic, that they are worth listening to, that they have something to say and have the command of language to say it with flair and authority. They can be trusted.

After that the writer will be ‘in full swing’. The reader will be committed;  will go along for the ride.  

40 thoughts on “The Third Sentence

  1. We went along for the full ride, down to the last paragraph, John. You almost made each paragraph a run on sentence, then at the last second put in that . And started a brief one. Good one John. I’m not such a big Hemingway fan even though he’s a home town boy.

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  2. As an outsider, stirrer, excentric writing anarchist I reject all conventions of “how to do” things. Liking to read s Chinese philosophy, it starts all very banal and unasumeing and offering the paradox at the end. It is the freedom to break all the rules that I find most attractive in the art of writing and with art in general. However, I will take on your advice, because even anarchists do not reject a possibility to improve their toll set.

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  3. coming from the academic side of writing I have still trouble putting some beauty into my words and less rationality. So I am still acquiring a bit of style by reading those who are on the creative writing path.

    on a second note, I realise my glasses are insufficient to notice my spelling mistakes, I meant to say toil and not toll. some part of the aging process can be irritating.

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    • don’t worry; I make typos and don’t notice till too late 🙂 I was pleased with that post: it was forceful and logical though that doesn’t mean its views cannot be contested —

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  4. “I write down all the sentences and then I put them in good order so people can follow along. Then I break the whole thing into paragraphs. It’s no big deal, it’s just how I roll.”

    —The Space Bar Cowboy

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