Dick Cavett writes a blog post periodically for the New York Times. Great Jumping Jehoshaphat, that man makes a pen glad to meet paper.
We agreed on a night. There were but three malefactors in the car. Henkle and Breslow had to miss our D-Day for some kind of graduation ceremony, I think it was. But we had set our date and seemed possessed with some sort of near-fanaticism so gripping that, probably, like Macbeth’s hired murderers (paraphrasing) our spirits shined through us.
It's the sentence -- There were but three malefactors in the car -- that caught my eye. I've been hollering about simplicity and sentence order (subject verb object) over at QueryShark for more years now that really bear recalling.
Yet here it is: There were but three malefactors in the car.
Is there a simpler way to say this? Yes: Three malefactors were in the car
Compare the two. Which falls upon your ear more gently?
The rules are there to get you started. Once you know them, you don't always have to obey them. But you must break them intentionally...and beautifully.
One of the ways to learn how to do that is to see it done. Dick Cavett blog posts are a good resource.