Freewriting Exercise: Write Using Hypotaxis / Parataxis

Writers are fortunate to have all sorts of different descriptive tools to label the things we do and how we use language to give shape to our thoughts and feelings.

This article introduces a couple of useful distinctions. They sound more complicated than they really are. They sound complicated because they are Greek. They sound especially erudite and intellectual.

The plus side is that you can use these terms when you find yourself in the company of someone you want to bore and scare away.

The terms: Parataxis and hypotaxis.

Ah, yes, the sheer parataxis of his scrivenings. I mean, what can one really say?”

… And the person quietly walks away.

Hypotaxis and Parataxis

Parataxis is

from the Greek “arranged side by side.”

Think of it as a way of simply presenting one thing followed by another without doing anything to show how they are linked.

Hypotaxis is

from the Greek “arranging under.”

Hypotaxis subordinates different elements. This, therefore that. Therefore that.

OK, so what are they again?

If you need a handle for more easily distinguishing between parataxis and hypotaxis. . .

Hypotaxis subordinates

Being injected with a hypodermic feels subordinating.

Parataxis juxtaposes

Several parachutes all equal next to each other.

(Here is a great article for more in-depth reading on the topic of hypotaxis/parataxis.)

Freewriting Exercise

  1. Familiarize yourself with the definitions hypotaxis and parataxis (the one that subordinates everything and the one that just lays things out parallel).
  2. Choose: Write in only one mode or switch back and forth.
  3. Write for twenty minutes without stopping.
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