Rhythm in prose – how to make your writing sing and vibrate

rhythm in prose for creative writing and tests

Hi, dear friends, in this short article let me briefly outline the concept of rhythm in writing, specifically in prose, whether it be creative writing or formal one for IELTS, TOEFL, SAT, GMAT and other tests. I understand that you probably have not ever pondered over the notion of rhythm in prose; we are all aware of it in verse, and yet rhythm is one of intrinsic inherent features of any kind of a written word.

To begin, let me warn you that the creativity of your literary endeavour may be evinced in the environment of freedom and non-dependence upon any academic constrains which are an essential element of English tests. That said, in IELTS writing you will be punished for the nfoldment of your creative genius; the graders are themselves benevolent, and still they are trained to assess your writing in accordance with exact prescribed rules – and reaaly, how could it be otherwise? Imagine millions of applicants writing for the tests every year, each boasting his singular talent and revealing his potential in his own way – how you can check and evaluate their writings then? Sure, there must be set rigid criteria for formal writing which will allow applicants to steer their course within the corridor of prescribed limitations.

Thus, firstly and foremostly, we will discuss now rhythm in prose for creative writing, and still, please remember that you can utilise the power or diction, melody and rhythm in your formal writing and surely add some points to your score.

So, let us look at the excerpt from Jule Verne’s “Around the world in eighty days” in the immaculate translation by Jacqueline Rogers – these are the first two paragraphs of the first chapter:


Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814. He was one of the most noticeable members of the Reform Club, though he seemed always to avoid attracting attention; an enigmatical personage, about whom little was known, except that he was a polished man of the world. People said that he resembled Byron—at least that his head was Byronic; but he was a bearded, tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old.

Certainly an Englishman, it was more doubtful whether Phileas Fogg was a Londoner. He was never seen on ‘Change, nor at the Bank, nor in the counting-rooms of the ‘City”; no ships ever came into London docks of which he was the owner; he had no public employment; he had never been entered at any of the Inns of Court, either at the Temple, or Lincoln’s Inn, or Gray’s Inn; nor had his voice ever resounded in the Court of Chancery, or in the Exchequer, or the Queen’s Bench, or the Ecclesiastical Courts. He certainly was not a manufacturer; nor was he a merchant or a gentleman farmer. His name was strange to the scientific and learned societies, and he never was known to take part in the sage deliberations of the Royal Institution or the London Institution, the Artisan’s Association, or the Institution of Arts and Sciences. He belonged, in fact, to none of the numerous societies which swarm in the English capital, from the Harmonic to that of the Entomologists, founded mainly for the purpose of abolishing pernicious insects.

Now, read this passage to yourself, either in a low voice, or completely to yourself. You will feel the beat. It is not that every second or third syllable bears a stress upon itself; in this case the scale of rhythm is broader, richer; you feel an invisible metronome ticking at regular inervals, these intervals being sumptuous, substantial, broad rather than narrow. So, to feel the rhythm of such prose, we can read the passage several times, each time immersing ourselves still deeper into the tranquil liquid of the genuine language.

I should admit that maybe for some of you this sensation of rhythm will not emerge at once in so tangible a form. I just want to remind you that rhythm exists in prose as well, and perhars it is evem more subtle, more exquisite and gentle than in verse, for verse is so common to us for its beat that it takes little effort on the part of the reader to grasp it; prose, conversely, veils its meter into intricate and quiete flow of sentences.

We all differ in our perception of prose rhythm. Some readers dote upon Earnest Hemingway of James Joyce; I personally love Artur Conan Doyle, Samuel Richardson and Jule Verne (the latter in translation, of course, so we should speak about the genius of the translator in this case).

What is your favourite pulsation? It can be any style and any author. I beg you to deliberate yourself from the mass-orientation shaped by critics. Whatever it is you are enjoying, it is completely yours for the simple reason that it resonates with your inner being; it vibrates in harmony with your personal radiation. Thus, you can feel the rhythm in any book of prose. Once you discover the pulse, you will search for it for the rest of your life. Some people say that the pleasure of rhythmical reading is one of the highest aesthetic indulgencies in our life. You simply feel the music in the text, whether it is a classical composition that is sounding in your mind, or some jazz or modern vibes – truly it is limitless.

Now, I venture to recommend you not only to enjoy the beat in the written word, but also to benefit from its immense power while writing for the tests of English. Yep, I understand that in order to accomplish the goal of a rhythmical, smoothly flowing composition you need to have a high level of language mastery, and this prerequisite may discourage you a trifle. In this case, I sincerely state that you are unique in your writing regardless of your level; rhythm can add to your compositions always and everywhere, just pluck up the courage to endeavour. You are much more talented than you think, and truly a fuller comprehension of your own talent is going to enrich your writing. I am a non-native speaker myself, so I have the choice of either sitting and complaining about my origin or just take the bull by the horns and whip up a short article on this web-site. Undoubtedly, this text swarms with inconsistencies, as well as syntactical and semantical slips. So what of that? If I abstain from writing, I doom myself to keeping a low profile and by no means boosting my language skills. If you feel that inferiority, simply follow my example. Just sing to yourself the creation of yours while writing, and miracles will emerge.

Be yours brilliant English!

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