Saving the Best Til Last

Delaying gratification is the life principle behind why we were never allowed to eat dessert first. But saving the best ’til last has other applications besides ensuring a balanced diet. Saving the best ’til last can be the secret to great public speaking. Saving the best ’til last is exactly what happens when a comedian delivers the punch line. Delaying gratification is a writing/communication technique that can improve your corporate copy, speech writing, fundraising appeals, comedy, suspense and even lyric writing.

As a point of grammar, this concept is called the periodic sentence. This is getting boring, you’re thinking. Keep reading. This isn’t complicated. Here’s how it works.

The periodic sentence positions the main clause in a sentence at the end. Usually the subject and verb are widely separated and the verb is as near the end as possible. As a result, the sentence has more dramatic impact. There’s a build up of tension so that readers feel compelled to keep reading.

Nonprofits may find this technique a helpful way to capture donors’ attention in their fundraising letters. As you will see, the periodic sentence builds tension and generates an emotional connection between the reader and the subject. Here’s an example,

After walking for many days through How to construct great arguments LRA territory with no map, no food, no water and only a fading glimmer of hope, the children arrived safely at the orphanage.

In this example, the many dangers and obstacles precede the resolution. This sentence construction builds suspense and serves to capture the reader’s interest to the end. Suppose we had re-arranged the word order as in,

The children arrived safely at the orphanage, after walking for many days through LRA territory with no map, no food, no water and only a fading glimmer of hope.


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