Great Courses, Great Sentences 04 of 24

Notes I made to myself after listening to Lesson 4 of Great Sentences by Professor Brooks Landon from The Great Courses:

Kernel sentences are the core of the sentence and should be about as short as can be.

Additional modifiers add information to either clarify or elaborate on the information in the kernel sentence.

No, that’s not many notes. Yes, it was an interesting lecture. I just didn’t take that many notes from it.

My attempts at writing exercises are below.

Questions to consider:

1. Generate a kernel sentence, and then generate three more kernel sentences that add information to your original sentence. That will give you four predicative sentences. Your task is to join these four kernel sentences in as many ways possible within the framework of our broad categories of Connective, Subordinative and Adjectival modes of progression.

[Notes to myself: Connective uses conjunctions or similar words; Subordinative subordinates some parts of the sentences to other parts; Adjectival uses modifying words and phrases that turn underlying propositions into modifiers.]

First kernel: I am working to write more.

Three modifiers: I am procrastinating. I want to write better. I am nervous.


  • I am working to write more and I want to write better and I am nervous and I am procrastinating.


  • I want to write better which means I need to work on writing more but I am nervous so I am procrastinating.
  • I am working on writing more which will lead me to writing better but I am procrastinating because I am nervous.
  • I am procrastinating although I am working to write more since I am nervous but also want to write better.


  • Nervous and procrastinating, wanting to write better, I am working at writing more.
  • Wanting to write better, but nervous and procrastinating, I am working to write more.
  • Working to write more, being nervous, hence procrastinating, I want to write better.

On a personal note, there is a series of novels I really love but I’ve been wondering for a long time what it is about the author’s writing style that makes the story seem almost inevitable and unstoppable. I haven’t gone back to those novels yet, but I suspect the author may use a lot of adjectival sentences as writing those led to the same feeling of onrushing inevitability as I get from reading those novels.


2. Find a cumulative sentence in a story or essay. Treat it as a kernel sentence by adding more modifiers to it.

From Unexplained!, 3rd Edition, by Jerome Clark, page 284, in the section “Kangaroos in America”:

Two police officers, responding skeptically to a bizarre report from a man who claimed to have seen a kangaroo on his porch, were duly astonished to encounter the creature at the end of a dark alley.

Kernel: Two police officers encountered a creature.
– The two police officers were skeptical.
– The two police officers were responding to a report.
– The report was bizarre.
– A man reported he saw a kangaroo on his porch.
– The police officers were astonished to encounter the creature.
– The creature was at the end of an alley.
– The alley was dark.

Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3

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