Staccato Sentences

by Craig Shrives

What Are Staccato Sentences? (with Examples)

Staccato sentences are short sentences written back to back for literary effect. The effect sought with a string of staccato sentences is usually emphasis, clarity, or speed for drama or excitement.

Often, a staccato sentence is not a sentence at all but a sentence fragment (i.e., a group of words that looks like a sentence but does not qualify as a sentence).

Examples of Staccato Sentences

Staccato sentences for emphasis:

  • There are a lot of people in that car. I mean way too many. A dangerous amount. About 10, I'd say.
  • (This string of staccato sentences is designed to emphasize. Notice that "A dangerous amount" looks like a sentence but isn't. Such deliberate repetition of similar facts is a literary technique called commoratio.)

Staccato sentences for clarity:

  • Here are your deals. Not just any deals. Your deals. I wrote these just for you.
  • (This string of staccato sentences is designed to clarify.)

Staccato sentences for speed:

  • A tall figure emerged from the shadow. Nicely dressed. He's too close. Staring at me. Do I know him? Closing. No. Teeth!
  • (Here, staccato sentences are used to generate speed (in this case, for drama) as a victim describes a vampire's approach.)

What Does "Staccato Mean"?

"Staccato" means detached in Italian.

The term "staccato" is used most commonly in music. When a tune has a "staccato rhythm," it is performed with each note sharply detached or separated from the others. So, music played in the staccato style sounds choppy.

In music notation, a note played staccato has a dot below or above.
staccato notes example

(Reason 1) Use Staccato Sentences for Emphasis, Clarity, or Speed.

Staccato sentences clearly have a place in storytelling and verse.

Staccato sentences in storytelling:

  • The reel clicked once. Matt noticed and carefully lowered his beer to the deck. The reel clicked twice more. Two more clicks. Three. Now faster. Click, click, click. The reel screamed. The rod bowed. Fish on! Fish on!
Used sparingly, staccato sentences can be used in business writing too.

Staccato sentences in business writing:

  • I've considered your solution. I like its practicality. It looks viable. Very viable indeed.

(Reason 2) Use Staccato Sentences Sparingly.

Like most literary effects, staccato sentences should be used sparingly to maintain their ability to deliver the effect sought. In other words, if you emphasize everything, then you emphasize nothing. Similarly, if you engineer a fast reading pace throughout your prose, then you will leave no room for speeding up your readers' assimilation of your words, making it difficult to generate drama or excitement.

In business writing, overusing staccato sentences will likely portray you as flippant.
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See Also

What is a sentence fragment? anaphora (deliberate repetition) commoratio (deliberate repetition) epiphora (deliberate repetition) What is a sentence?

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