Who knew you could find a grammar lesson in the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog?
While browsing one of their editions years ago, I had fun identifying a wide range of sentence variations on page after page. Between PB’s concrete word choices and interesting sentence structures, no wonder their products sound so enticing!
In our junior high/high school WriteShop curriculum, we teach students to use an assortment of sentence variations. Among top reasons, using different sentence types:
- Peppers a composition with interesting phrases
- Adds zest to otherwise dull writing
- Expands sentence length
- Offers alternatives to the subject-verb sentence structure
- Improves the rhythm of a sentence or paragraph
- Often helps eliminate a “to be” verb
- Brings maturity to the writing
Below, you’ll find a brief description of each sentence variation, followed by examples from Pottery Barn. These are just a few of the many sentence types I spotted in this particular PB catalog!
Paired Adjective Sentence Starters
Choose a pair of related adjectives to describe the noun that follows closely.
Clever and versatile, our modular Daily System is the ultimate home-office assistant. (p. 108)
Soft and weighty, our cotton velvet is saturated with intense color made even more dramatic by its deep matte texture. (p. 117)
Present Participial Phrase Sentence Starters
Sometimes called “-ing verbs,” present participles at the beginning of a sentence give the writing more maturity and interest.
Standing more than five feet high, our cylinder lamp creates a striking setting for seasonal displays. (p. 12)
Combining linen’s distinctive texture and appeal with cotton’s natural wrinkle-resistance, our drape has an easy elegance. (p. 134)
Past Participial Phrase Sentence Starters
Regular past participles end in “-ed.” Irregular past participles include words such as taught, stolen, known, and worn.
Woven of incredibly soft cotton yarn, our velvet pillows are available in an array of saturated colors. (p. 8 )
Rendered in warm ivory and pale espresso stripes, our hand-tufted wool rug brings a bold look to your room. (p. 53)
Defined by clean, minimalist design, our Landon Collection lends a modern aesthetic to the bath. (p. 78)
“-ly” Adverb Sentence Starters
Adverbs modify verbs. Beginning a sentence with an adverb, especially one that begins with “-ly,” layers a paragraph with additional texture.
Originally popular in coastal countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, the sandrift gray finish is created by brushing the ash-framed furniture with washes of eggplant, taupe and blue. (p. 22)
Beautifully crafted of birch and birch veneers, the table has a turned pedestal that rests on a scrolling three-footed base. (p. 56)
Subordinating Conjunction Sentence Starters
Words or phrases that introduce dependent clauses in a sentence are called subordinating conjunctions. They also act as transition words.
Although the design was originally European, and based on the classic Windsor chair, ladder-back chairs have become American icons. (p. 51)
Since then, this highly comfortable and durable design has been a favorite at cafés all over the world. (p. 57)
As in nature, our cheetah-pattered wool rug has markings that graduate from small to large, close-set to widely spaced, all set off by tonal variations in the neutral colors. (p. 107)
Prepositional Phrase Sentence Starters
Prepositional phrases can appear anywhere in a sentence. Try using them at the beginning to add variety to your writing.
In the tradition of Scandinavian design, we’ve brought graphic appeal to the simple forms of flowers and leaves. (p. 12)
Like well-traveled furniture pieces that have been painted and repainted over time, these cabinets have a richly layered finish. (p. 32)
For graphic impact, nothing beats our stoneware in black and white. (p. 67)
Appositives as Sentence Variations
An appositive is a noun or noun phrase (usually set off by commas) that renames another noun right next to it. Appositives are useful for combining information in two sentences or for adding extra detail to a short sentence.
Hand quilting and tonal pick-stitching, two techniques that have been used for over a thousand years, require detailed hand work. (p. 37)
Canopies, or four-post standing beds, were originally introduced in the 15th century. (p. 92)
Transition words and phrases such as similarly, in addition, next, in fact, and finally help guide the reader from one idea to the next.
Each piece is shaped from copper with rolled-in edges, then coated with a layer of tin.
Next, the surfaces are meticulously hammered for rich texture.
Finally, the pendants are plated with silver and rubbed with a blackened finish that accentuates each indentation. (p. 65)
Sentence of Six or Fewer Words
Short sentences make an impact by breaking up longer strings of text.
High function meets great style. (p. 109)
Give your windows modern style. (p. 139)
Isn’t it fun to find “school exercises” in real writing? It’s all about application!
If you’re already a WriteShop user, you may want to print out this blog post for ammunition in case your teen moans and complains over an assignment. After all, if the copywriters at Pottery Barn use sentence variations to increase the appeal of their descriptions, it only makes sense that our kids’ writing can improve with simple changes too. Showing examples from real-life writing encourages them that the skills you’re teaching will make a difference in their writing style.
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As part of most lessons, WriteShop teaches—and offers practice in—a new writing skill, including a wide array of sentence variations that help to enhance a student’s paper with fresh style and vigor. When combined with strong, dynamic word choices, sentence variations give dull writing new life.
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