Stylistic Polish: Sentence Rhythm

Good writing is not only grammatical and clear; each sentence has a lively rhythm that draws readers along and keeps them interested.

We saw in a previous post how to fix a common problem of parallelism in a series. The original, incorrect sentence was

Thyme is low growing, fragrant, and has small purple-pink flowers.

This mistake can be fixed in several ways. First, we can keep the series by using a linking verb (is or has) for each item.

Thyme is low growing, is fragrant, and has small purple-pink flowers.

The sentence is now grammatically correct but awkward and wordy; because is conveys little meaning of its own, its overuse leads to weak, dull writing. Here, it only connects the adjectives (low growing, fragrant) to the noun (thyme).

We can try recasting the sentence without a parallel series.

Thyme is low growing and fragrant, and it has small purple-pink flowers.

A bit better—but now we have a clunky compound sentence without the flow and rhythm intended in the original. We can restore a graceful rhythm by making the adjectives directly modify the noun in an appositive phrase.

Thyme, low growing and fragrant, has small purple-pink flowers.

Even better is a more active verb (bears) and more information to round off and balance the sentence.

Thyme, low growing and fragrant, bears small purple-pink flowers in summer.