The Oxford Dictionary defines cadence as “a modulation or inflection of the voice, a rhythmical effect in written text, a fall in pitch of the voice at the end of a phrase or sentence” or simply as “rhythm”. For purposes of discussion today, I have a brief illustration of how it can affect reader experience.
Consider the following lines:
I do not like green eggs and ham,
I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.
A classic by Dr. Seuss, yes? But take a simple stanza like that, give it to the likes of Mariah Carey, and one would expect it to be delivered in an entirely different style — one which might be represented like this:
I do not like green eggs and ha-am,
I do not like them, Saaaammm-I-Aaa-a-a-ahhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,with the Ms dragging on to infinity such that they begin to choke the airways of anyone attempting to master them. And the songstress clutches her throat as she falls to the ground, her face turning an eggplanty purple to match the quality of this prose, all while Mariah sings and sings, her eyes cast upward as if to follow her soaring voice, which conveys a rapturous purity—
Ahem. You get the idea.
So what does this have to do with writing? Well, the more I become conscious about the use of words, the more I notice that it’s cadence which lies behind my approval or disapproval of a writer’s performance, including my own words.