Student or Learner
Does this sentence sound strange?
A book is on the desk.
Please help me!
I think a sentence like "The sheriff shot a bank robber dead a week ago last Wednesday down by the barn where the old Johansen ranch used to be" is a pretty poor sentence indeed.
But in this case, there are a couple of considerations that are getting in the way of using that rule.
1) One consideration is that it is hardly a sentence that has much to do with emphasis. It's a fairly bland sentence about a pretty dull event.
- Is the idea that it is as strange to see a book on a desk
"The book is on the (gasp) DESK!
as it would be to see a book on a ceiling?
"The book is on the CEILING!"
- Or is the idea that it is as strange to see a book on a desk
"The (gasp) BOOK is on the desk!
as it would be to see a giraffe on a desk?
"A GIRAFFE is on the desk!"
- And if some emphasis is wanted, how does the sentence suggest which element is the emphasized one?
2) Another consideration is this:
In the sentence you provided
- A book is on the desk.
and in the alternative sentence I suggested
- There's a book on the desk.
there is no difference in the placement of the words.
wary of a writing teacher that advises you to omit "there" in such sentences. In most cases, the sentence is better with "there", and it's hardly something that is worth being critical about.