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A writer has a lot of tools in their toolbox. But in choosing sentences, there are only 4 types of sentences possible in any language.
- Declarative sentence: A statement or description. This is a declarative sentence.
- Exclamatory sentence: An expression of emotion. Ugh, what a bad exclamatory sentence!
- Imperative sentence: A command. Read this imperative sentence with awe.
- Interrogative sentence: A question, rhetorical or otherwise. What kind of sentence is this?
While the declarative seems the most matter-of-fact of all four sentence types, it’s also the most flexible. You can say “she ran.” Simple as it is, it’s still a fine declarative example.
But what does declarative mean, and how can you master the different types of this sentence to improve your own writing?
What Is a Declarative Sentence?
Let’s start with a simple declarative definition. A declarative sentence is the most basic—and important—you’ll ever write. It’s a “statement that makes a statement.”
Don’t think of “declarative” in the old-timey sense—a town cryer moving through the square with a bell in their hands, shouting the news. It simply means that if the goal of your sentence is to convey information, it’s probably declarative.
Examples of a Declarative Sentence
You’ll find examples littered throughout the page. But in many cases, you can open a book from classic literature and find a declarative sentence right off the bat:
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”– Jane Austen, Emma
“A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green.”– John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
When to Use a Declarative Sentence
What is a declarative sentence example going to accomplish if you don’t know how to use them? Stick to a rule of thumb: If you need to convey action or a lot of information, declarative is usually your best bet.
But that doesn’t mean declarative sentences have to be straightforward. Note how much information the authors above pack into their simple sentences. Both authors drop us immediately into the world of the story with a few details about setting or character.
Know that old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words?” It’s not always the case. If you do it right, a declarative sentence can do just as much with one brief statement.
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Other Types of Sentences: Interrogative and Imperative
Pay attention to each sentence in this paragraph. You’ll find that this paragraph avoids sounding dull because it uses all four types of sentences. What’s at work here? Contrast!
An artful declarative sentence is the bread and butter of a great writer. But don’t ignore those other tools in your toolbox, either.
Definition of an Interrogative Sentence
When the question seeks information instead of supplying it, you’ve got an interrogative sentence.
These sentences are useful for closing the distance between you and your readers’ minds. When you (or a character) ask the same question we’re thinking, we feel in lockstep with the pace of the writing.
In the first example below, notice how dropping a question amid the declarative sentences tells us what Circe is thinking without using the words “she thought.”
Examples of an Interrogative Sentence
“My face had begun to burn. It was not pain, not exactly, but a stinging that went on and on. I pressed my fingers to my cheeks. How long had it been since I’d thought of Prometheus?”– Madeline Miller, Circe
“He remembered darkness solid darkness had come before the haze. Did that mean he was making progress?”– Stephen King, Misery
Definition of an Imperative Sentence
What separates declarative vs. imperative sentences? With imperative sentences, you’ll involve the reader.
When someone barks an order at us, our ears perk up. Imperative sentences work the same way. It demonstrates authority and immediacy.
Let’s boil it down this way. What is the difference between a declarative and imperative sentence? A declarative sentence explains; an imperative sentence commands.
Examples of Imperative Sentences
“Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams; unloose the chord and they will wrap you round.”– William Butler Yeats, Fergus and the Druid
“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and Despair!”– Percy Shelley, Ozymandias
What is a simple declarative sentence going to do to help you write? Not much. If this were basketball, practicing declarative sentences would be like practicing your dribbling. Master the fundamentals, and you’ll create much more vivid writing.
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