Sentence Openers Series: Opinion Statements

Sentence Openers Series #1: Avoid Opinion Statements

SENTENCE OPENER SERIESEvery sentence needs a beginning, but we should avoid certain introductory phrases. Consider both the effectiveness and necessity of the words you select. A sentence, especially the initial one, should start strong. A sentence opener is the enticing bait on your hook. A hook is your initial sentence and how you lure someone into your writing.

Sentence Opener Rule #1: Avoid opinion statements as sentence openers.

In the primary grades, teachers offer sentence starters to help students begin a sentence. Many elementary school handouts offer opinion statements, and young writers learn to write by giving their thoughts on a subject. As we evolve as writers, we should avoid these starters to begin our sentences:

I think that…

I feel like…

I guess that…

I hope that…this might be a decent sentence.

Opinion openers are the speech crutches of written communication. It’s like saying “um” at the beginning of your sentence. Um, who wants that in their writing? Well, you can safely remove them, and voila, your sentence is completely intact.

In addition, opinion openers weaken the credibility of the writer–especially in a persuasive piece. They offer an uncertain tone, and your reader may doubt your authority on an issue.

When I edit for someone, this is how I treat opinion statements as sentence openers:

I think that I will start a blog.

I feel like I have something to say.

I guess that It’s important to share my thoughts.

I hope that I can impact others with my words.





Poetry for Easter

These poems, written in various forms, capture the Easter message beautifully. As I post this today, I remember our poet-friend, Robert Burnham, who has two poems included here. Robert went home to be with our Savior in 2015.

Have a blessed Easter!

(This is a repost from 2011.)


“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,

that he was raised on the third day.” -1 Corinthians 15:3-5

“Good Friday Kyrielle”

by Sheila Deeth

From dust to earth from earth to seed

From seed to leaf from leaf to tree

From tree to cross against the sky

The earth has borne my Savior high

The lamb will birth, the flower bloom

The canopy of sky make room

The page of history burn dry

For earth has borne my Savior high

The stalks of grain will manger make

And scattered crops for food he’ll take

Then palm to cross I’ll twist and tie

The earth has borne my Savior high

The one who made each living thing

Gave life, gave hope, gave seed, gave wing

The king we hailed, then crucified

The earth has borne my Savior high

One dawn these clouds will roll away

The sky will fall and end the day

Then we who live will never die

For earth has borne our Savior high

“The Cross”

by John Beck


For centuries upon this earth

I stood with pride and grew in girth

Until by man I was undone

To crucify the Holy One

Who could have known that from this tree

A cross would change eternity

Hewn from my trunk they had begun

To crucify the Holy One

Should I bear shame for I took part

In cross intended from the start

Now standing here under the sun

To crucify the Holy One

Or should I stand with humble pride

As symbol for all who abide

With Him? They know not what they’ve done

To crucify the Holy One

Don’t You Know He Cried For You

©2011 Robert C Burnham

Mindful Poetry Contest: Anapeat for Holy Week.

Were you there when Jesus died

Did you object when Peter lied

Did you mock Him when he looked your way

Where were you on that fateful day

Don’t you know He cried for you

Don’t you know He wanted your heart too

Were you there when Jesus died

Laughing at Mary as she cried

Did you know he saw you on that day

There was nowhere to run or hideaway

Don’t you know He cried for you

Made no difference Gentile or Jew

Were you there when Jesus died

Winced from the flesh that fell from His side

Were you afraid when the sky went gray

When lightning bolts flashed and thunder splayed

When the temple veil was torn in two

Did it seem that hell was following you

Were you there when Jesus died

Did you hear the words that Jesus cried

“Father forgive them on this day,

They do not know they’ve gone astray”

Don’t you know He cried for you

He gave so much to see you through

Were you there when Jesus died?


By Marianne K.

Rejoice my friend
paint the sky blue
let darkness flee

Call forth the truth
of triumph on earth
of glory divine

The King of Kings
the Lord of Lords
with love descends

The sun bursts forth
upon the Son of God
who died and rose

Rejoice my friend
sing hymns of praise
hands to him raise



© Robert Burnham

Did you see the blackened sky

As they nailed Him to the cross

Did you see tears in Mary’s eyes

Did you contemplate her loss

Or were your eyes shut tight

Self-blinded to the cost

Did you listen when they mocked Him

Did you hear them curse His name

Did you hear the silence of His disciples

As they turned and ran in shame

Or were your ears waxed shut

To the lonely cries of His pain

Did you shout out in protest

At the cruel things that were done

Did you forget how to speak

As though the cat had your tongue

Were your lips glued tight together

While they crucified God’s Son.


I would like to thank these poets for their words and for letting me post their poems. I hope all of you have a very blessed Easter! 


Squeaky Doors

On March 19, I started a devotional book, and for a solid month, I had been at my computer, typing happily. I kept on my self-imposed schedule and produced a few devotionals a day. I was happy. I was organized. I was focused.

And then I decided to share my re-entry to the writing world with others. This brought me to social media, which brought me to the blog, which had me thinking about hosting authors on the site again, which then led me to Canva to design graphics for the aforementioned sites, which led me back to Facebook, which, by the magic of pressing a link, brought me here again.

When my “writing world” gets cluttered with distractions, I think of Jane Austen and her portable writing box. When she lived in the Chawton cottage, her biggest distraction was the squeaky door into her bedroom.


I have a multitude of “squeaky doors,” and Google is the key to finding many of them. I also have these cute cats, laundry, birds chirping outside, and the desire to snack even though I am not hungry.

(At the top of the screen, I spot the number of Facebook notifications. I resist the temptation to check them out and decide, instead, on a speedy ending to this blog post.)

At the end of today, my husband will ask, “Did you get a lot of writing done?”

“Yes,” I can answer without fibbing.

After all, I wrote this.



Easter Book List: Suggestions for All Ages (Babies, Children, Middle School, Teens, & Adults)

Our family has over 100 Christmas books but only 4 Easter books. In an effort to expand our library with books that offered a true meaning of Easter, I ended up with an extensive book list. The Legend of the Three Trees has been our favorite for many years, but now that I have two teenagers, I wanted to reach them where they are now.

IMG_0354 (1)


I was thrilled to find Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith in Kids’ (8-12) editions and student editions (teens). I have met Lee Strobel, and he’s the most genuine person. Here’s my copy of The Case for Christ as well as his autograph. I plan to read The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection this Easter season.

Early Readers (Birth – 4)

This is Easter: Our Daily Bread for Little Hearts by Crystal BowmanTeri McKinley

Jesus is Risen: An Easter Pop-Up Book by Agostino Traini

The Story of Easter by Thomas Nelson

Children (5-8)

God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren

The Easter Story by Patricia A. Pangry

The Easter Cave by Carol Wedeven

The Parable of the Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs

Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday by Carol Heyer

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt 

Middle Grades (9-12)

The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

The Case for Christ for Kids by Lee Strobel

Teen (13-17)

What Makes a Hero?: The Death-Defying Ministry of Jesus by Matt Rawle

The Case for Christ: Student Edition by Lee Strobel


The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection by Lee Strobel

The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs 

The “Secret” is Out! (But Why is it Free?)

Dear Readers,

I had intended to release The Secrets We Keep after a month or so of promotion, but after uploading the book on Smashwords, I just couldn’t allow it to sit there and not be read by someone other than Mindy (my amazing friend and editor who deserves endless accolades) and me. After all, some of you have been waiting 1,765 days since the release of NBTAM to get the second installment. (Yes, I am finding more and more uses for that date calculator. See previous post.)

When asked why I am offering the book for free, I have a few answers for that query:

  1. I write as a hobby, not a profession. Many authors quit their jobs to become writers. I am so taken by their stories. I offer the story of Bethany Turner and her books. Read her story, her books, and support someone who wants to turn writing into a sustainable career.
  2. Free entices more people. We will try anything for free. That is why so many people eat seaweed when Costco has it for a sample on Saturday afternoon.
  3. Consider it a gift to all my loyal NBTAM readers. After all, you waited a long time to find out what happens next in the life of the Seven Cs. I’m certain many of you suffered insomnia over it, right?
  4. 3. I would prefer a book review over any payment. Really, this is very important. Books climb out of the pit of obscurity when people review them. Please go to Smashwords and iBooks to give reviews. These retailers have the ebook up on their sites already. Also, you can review the book on Goodreads. Review the book by selecting the number of stars it deserves. That is all. 🙂
  5. Books need promotion to sell. I do not want to spend my time promoting a book: I want to spend my time writing the third one. Plus, if I used a pie chart as an illustration, you would see that only a small sliver of my life is devoted to writing. I’m a full-time homeschooling mom who serves as a director at Classical Conversations. That’s my job. (See #1 for more on that!)

Okay, that is all. I am going to work on book #3. I have made a promise to write a little every day, so I can continue delivering books to all of you.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Happy reading!


952 Days

It has been 952 days or “roughly” 82,252,800 seconds since I posted on this blog. I’d like to say I have a reason for this long hiatus from the blogosphere, but over the last 2 years, 7 months, and 9 days, I have just been…

(a) busy

(b) lazy

(c) uninspired

(d) all of the above

Yes, you should choose (d), but I am no longer (b) or (c) since I have been exceedingly (a) as I get ready to release my second book. So…that’s why I’m back on the blog: I’m starting to promote The Secrets We Keep



By the way, if you are interested in finding the duration between two dates, use this Date to Date Calculator. It’s much faster than using your brain. Sadly, I had that eureka moment after I used mental math to figure out the answer. 

A Christmas Story

[This article first appeared here.]

I placed the gifts in the trunk, strapped two wiggly children into their car seats, and set the egg nog and muffins on the front seat, and as I rolled down the driveway, I hit play on the CD player. Bing Crosby’s low voice crooned:

When I’m feeling blue, when I’m feeling low,
I start to think about the happiest man I know.
Now he doesn’t mind the snow, he doesn’t mind the rain,
But all December you will hear him at your window pane,
Singing again and again and again and again and again:

The music filled the cabin as we weaved through the empty streets of our subdivision and out onto the abandoned roads.  The Kentucky sky, hovering low, threatened rain.  As we joined the light highway traffic, the clouds spat the first drops. Split, splat. The intermittent raindrops reached a crescendo, drumming louder as we exited the highway and veered toward the airport. Ker-plunk, ker-plunk.  Then the car pulled under an overhang of the terminal, and the music boomed from the speakers again:

I’ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

The kids and I scanned the crowd, eager to spot our favorite pilot. “There he is!” one yelled. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” screeched the other.

Daddy strolled toward us, without any bags, and opened the door. He moved breakfast to his lap and smiled into the backseat. “Merry Christmas.” Then, with a softer, sadder voice, he looked at me. “I only have an hour.”

The car entered the rain again and circled the airport. My husband reached over and found his favorite Christmas song:

Let me tell you a tale that is often told
In the great Celestial Hall
All about an angel only four years old
The littlest angel of all.

Then we found shelter from the rain in a multi-leveled parking garage. There, on Christmas morning in 2006, our family shared Christmas together.

In my 39 years, I have forgotten many Christmases, like the ones by a tree in a warm cozy home, but as for my family, we will never forget the one we shared in the parking garage of the Cincinnati airport.

Merry Christmas—wherever you are, I hope it’s happy!

Poet: Grace Miller

I have one more poetry post…

Grace Miller lives in Kentucky and is in the 8th grade. She enjoys writing and has her own blog:


He intended love forever,
that it never hinder,
many people have changed these days,
and that love now seems to fade,
hiding in the souls of those,
who may never know what love really holds,
the beauty, the grace, the happiness, the laughs,
what many people seem to lack,
they run around with sorrow in their heads,
like little puppets strung to a thread,
for what love truly holds,
I can not explain,
you’ll have to get into it
to know what you’ve gained.

My thanks to everyone who commented on the blog this month. Darlene and Marianne won autographed copies of Nothing but Trouble after Midnight. Congratulations to both of you! 🙂

Poet: Tyler Frost

Tyler Frost is a theater arts and English literature major at Marquette University. He enjoys old things, movies, and good conversation and hopes to be a professional actor someday. Tyler doesn’t write very often, but he likes to let feelings out through it and enjoys being creative. He hopes you enjoy the rough draft of his poem.


“To Mom”

I do not understand why you are lost
In this world of fruits and much abundance
Your soul and body are bitten with frost
You should complete your circle’s circumference
You were not there during most of my time
Which is somewhat understandable though
Sometimes you look like you are full of grime
One of your mistakes, I was loved and grew
It is hard to get out of the bad ways
Once we know it, it’s our way of being
You should think about it by the ocean bay
Look out and compare space you are seeing
You’ll see much room which means you can still be
Anything that’s good, just climb up the tree.

Up ↑