Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Using appositives for texture and depth  (Read 181 times)
Joe Carillo
Administrator
Hero Member
*****

Karma: +52/-2
Posts: 3496


View Profile Email
« on: May 28, 2017, 02:53:11 PM »

The problem with most bad writing is that it is often so general and lacking in texture and depth. The people, places, or things used as subjects seem to exist only in two-dimensional space, as in a crude cartoon movie, and the actions described all seem to crowd themselves in just a single timeframe. Hardly are there any telling details to give meat and substance to the bare-boned prose, making the writing invariably dry, bland, uninviting—and unreadable.


An efficient way of giving life and vitality to writing is to use appositives and appositive phrases. An appositive is simply a noun or pronoun that often comes directly after another word in a sentence, putting that word in better context by explaining it or by giving more information about it. An appositive phrase, on the other hand, consists of an appositive and all its modifiers, which maybe single words, phrases, or clauses. Both are powerful tools that allow the writer to identify or explain the nouns or pronouns he uses without having to come up with a new sentence or string of sentences to give the added information. This makes the buildup of ideas smoother, and frees the writing from digressions or asides that can impede its natural flow.

Here are some examples of sentences using appositives, which are indicated in italics: “My office assistant Joanna took the day off yesterday.” “Her husband, the jealous type, took her on an extended out-of-town trip.” “They rode on my friend’s car, a battered 1995 sedan, to a hillside farm in Batangas.” “The popular duo Batman and Robin were my favorite cartoon characters during my teens.” “The two provincial girls, adventurers with only a few hundred pesos between them, took the bus to Manila last night.” “Eduardo, the computer enthusiast and high school junior, helped fix the laptop of his teacher, Mrs. Alicia Santos.” “A positively enchanting singer, Elvira had many admirers at the club where she works.” Note that appositives may also come before the noun or pronoun they refer to; what is important is not to detach them from the noun or pronoun they modify.


An appositive phrase, of course, is simply an appositive joined by whatever modifiers come with it, as in this example: “Mayon Volcano, a major Philippine tourist attraction because of its majestic near-perfect cone, is found in Albay, a southeastern province in Luzon about 500 kilometers from Manila by land transport.” The first appositive in the sentence is the noun “attraction,” which is modified by the phrases “a major Philippine tourist” and “because of its majestic near-perfect cone.” The second appositive is the word “province,” modified by the phrases “southeastern,” “in Luzon,” and “about 500 kilometers from Manila by land transport.” Appositive phrases, by supplying much more information about the nouns or pronouns they modify, are even more effective than simple appositives in giving texture and depth to writing.

From the examples given above, it should be clear by now that an appositive or appositive phrase may either be essential or non-essential to a sentence. An essential or restrictive appositive narrows the meaning of the word it modifies and is necessary to maintain the meaning of the sentence. It is usually a single word or a set of words closely related to the preceding word, and does not require commas to set it off from the rest of the sentence. See the following examples: “The American actress Meryl Streep has been hailed for her consistently fine acting in a string of memorable films.” (Without “Meryl Streep” as appositive, we will never know the identity of the actress being talked about.) “The extremely popular Philippine president Ramon Magsaysay died in a tragic plane crash in the early 50s.” (Without “Ramon Magsaysay” as appositive, we will never know who that president was.)

A non-essential or non-restrictive appositive, on the other hand, is not absolutely necessary to the meaning of a sentence; it may be omitted without altering the basic meaning. (It must be set off from the rest of the sentence by one or two commas, depending on its position in the sentence). Examples: “Alicia’s sister, a Philippine-born doctor, works as a senior anesthesiologist in a large hospital in the U.S. Midwest.” “The ‘Santacruzan,’ a colorful religious festival, is regularly held in many Philippine towns during the month of May.” (We still would know who the doctor is and what the event is even without the appositives “a Philippine doctor” and “a colorful religious festival.”)

Non-essential appositive phrases have the same optional role in sentences, as in this example: “December, usually the coldest month in tropical Philippines, is becoming more popular than June as the wedding month of choice.” We can take out the appositive “usually the coldest month in tropical Philippines” and still get a clear idea of what month it is that more and more Filipinos now prefer to get married. (circa 2003-20014)

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 38 in the English Grammar Revisited section of his book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo, © by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2017, 04:57:54 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to: