Sherlock Holmes waited

The topic of my english lesson this week was sentence structure.

I now know, that the first sentence in this blog post is a periodic sentence. It is periodic because I left the most important information at the end of the sentence.  I could have written: “Sentence structure was the topic of my english lesson this week.”  This would have been a loose sentence.

Should I have gotten to the point faster in the first sentence and used the loose sentences structure?  Within two words you would have gotten the subject of this post; however did the periodic sentence I used set the scene and gave background to draw you in first?  To be honest at this stage I still have no idea which way round is best. It is completely dependant on the purpose and the audience, I don’t think there is a wrong answer for this blog post at least.

The Mnemonic

The part of the lesson which stuck with me the most however was Fanboys.  Fanboys is an mnemonic device, a memory technique to help you recall information.  This one helps you remember words which can join items together in sentences.  The course videos didn’t go into when to use which but a little research (**wikipedia**) helped me put this list together, along with my own examples to help me learn:

For  – presents a reason.  (I was tired after my journey, for I had been forced to run 20 miles.)
And  -presents two items or ideas that don’t conflict with each other. (I run and I sleep.) 
Nor  – presents two negative items or ideas that don’t conflict with each other.  (I can’t write nor can I read)
But –  presents a contrast or exception. (I don’t usually eat fruit but do enjoy an apple.)
Or  – presents an alternative item or idea. (I usually walk or get the bus to work.)
Yet  – presents a contrast or exception.  (I usually walk to work yet today I ran.)
So  – presents a consequence. (I ran to work today, so I was smelly all day.)

The words are called Coordinating conjunctions. They are rules on when to use a comma before and when not too. Which I haven’t quite got yet but hopefully it will be covered in future parts of the course.

If this seems boring to you, it did to me at first too. But once I started digging deeper into this aspect of language I ended up hooked.  For example, I always thought it was wrong to start a sentence with a Fanboy type word like but in my previous one; however it turns out it isn’t.

There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.

It turns out that the idea came about in the 1800’s. Teachers were told that young students tend to use them too often, but instead of warning against over use many just banned it outright. Generations of children went on to be taught never to start a sentence that wait, and in many case still are.  I remember getting told off for it in school.

Sherlock Holmes

The most fun part of the course this week any interactive tool, where you are given a list of sentence fragments you can use to build sentences involving Sherlock Holmes waiting. They are over 16,000 valid sentences which can be created from these, including simply “Sherlock Holmes waited.”




Note: some may say that fanboys is an acronym, which technically I should have written as FANBOYS. As each letter stands for the beginning of a word. I was going with this at first but did some research and found almost every paper and post called fanboys a mnemonic. I don’t know why they do this yet but I will just go with in.

Header image via –

No Comments