Hey, the Romantics had it all wrong: It’s imitation, not originality, that gives a writer strength. Classical students of rhetoric learned how to imitate—at first exactly, and then with creative deviations—the speeches and writings of the masters. In the exercises in the document below, you will practice imitating sentences by first copying a master model sentence from a published writer and then imitating the sentence style of that writer with your own sentence. It may seem weird simply copying someone else’s work: Isn’t that plagiarism?? But you’ll have a much better sense of the rhetorical decisions a writer makes after forcing yourself to write down their sentences: paying careful attention to get the words, phrases, clauses, and punctuation exactly right. And then by making up your own sentences in imitation, you’ll begin to hear and sense the way master sentences trip and dance across the screen/page. Enjoy!

imitation exercises

longer passages for imitation

the Enormous Pile of Cool Sentences (to study, imitate, mimic, appreciate)