Any good prose is bound to be pervaded by rhythm. But in my opinion, there are different modes of rhythm. There is, to coin a term, quasi-metrical rhythm, a kind of rhythm where similar groups of feet are adjacent to one another, or where metrical runs break off and a new rhythm begins. There is also a kind of rhythm consisting of things that are called cadences. Then, there is rhythm made of the lengths of grammatical phrases. I am sure that, in addition to these, there are other modes of rhythm.

I would like to discuss this topic in this question. If I were to put forth a question for this thread, I guess it would be, "What are all the different modes of rhythm that exist in prose, and where can I find more information about them?"

Of course, I know that variety and repetition also have a lot to do with rhythm, but those are things to be used in all modes, with every type of element of language.

1 Answer 1


How will knowing the technical labels for different modes of achieving rhythm in prose help you to accomplish it in practice? Rhythm comes, technically, from things like phrase length, stress groups, and so on, but I find the process of actually perceiving and/or generating rhythm is much more intuitive. Observing poetry and music is also excellent practice, but as far as I'm concerned, the absolute best way to achieve good rhythm in your writing is to read it aloud and adjust from there.

  • Thank you for your answer. But some people actually work out the rhythm of a sentence before they write it, as it says in the book, "First you Write a Sentence", (in which each chapter is so long that I couldn't finish reading it.)
    – garbia
    Jan 2, 2021 at 10:29
  • Also, I have a question. Why do college manuals on style often set forth no information on rhythm, but merely suggest that the student aim to achieve variety in their prose?
    – garbia
    Jan 2, 2021 at 10:33
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    @garbus Some people certainly plan their stress and syllable counts beforehand, but it doesn't feel particularly useful to me, personally, as a strategy. Regarding variety in prose, that's a pretty good first step -- I think it's to do with the intuitive element of generating rhythm. Varying sentence length and emphasis is one of the easiest ways to create easily parsed, visible rhythm at a relatively low bandwidth of effort.
    – dweeblet
    Jan 2, 2021 at 20:04
  • Knowing the names of such modes helps (a) think about what mode you wat to use in a particular context, as having names for them makes remembering them easier and (b) allows discussion about them with other writers. This is analogous to a "Pattern Language " (cf the works of Christopher Alexander and others) and all the reasons discussed for using those apply here.
    – occipita
    Jan 6, 2021 at 1:38

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