Don’t Let Words Get In The Way

text-sign-showing-keep-it-simple-motivational-call-conceptual-photo-simplify-things-easy-clear-concise-ideas-written-yellow-sticky-note-p.jpgWrite with your reader in mind. You want to keep things simple: no over the top flowery sentences that belong in poetry not in a novel, no run on sentences that are a paragraph long, or clumsy writing that is hard to understand. When you write this way, you are making your reader aware.

Aware of what you might ask? Your writing. You don’t want your reader cognizant of the fact that they are reading a book. You want them focused on the story to the point that they are walking beside the characters and experiencing their every move.

You want them to continue reading until the end accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable storyline written. We often refer to this as the suspension of disbelief. If the reader is focused on the story and not the writing, they will accept most of what you throw at them without stopping to question its plausibility.

 Remember: Clumsy writing that’s hard to understand makes readers aware. Don’t let the words get in the way of a great story.

-Jan R

Don’t Let Words Get In The Way

Remember That One Teacher That Put You To Sleep?

sleeping-in-classWhen you’re writing, you need to mix things up.  You don’t want to be the one that puts your reader to sleep.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had teachers or sat through sermons that literally put us to sleep. How embarrassing-you can’t hide the little jerk of the head when you catch yourself and attempt to shake it off.

There are many different things you can do to add a little excitement and keep your reader’s attention, but one thing you have to avoid, is monotony. Change those sentences up.  Use structure and length for change of pace to slow down or speed up.

WHAT NOT TO DO!

Suzie entered the boutique. She looked around for dresses. She walked over to the semi-formals. The store owner said hello. She picked the one she liked. She walked over to the counter. The owner rang her up. She handed her the money. She left with a smile.

Now there’s a lot of things wrong with this paragraph from the style perspective, but their are no grammatical or structural errors (I hope :-)). It has strong verbs and nouns-all good elements, but something isn’t quite right.

It’s a string of segregated sentences that can stand on their own-definitely overused. It’s also composed of sentences similar in length and cadence.

You need to vary the length. Change the beat every now and then. 7-14 word sentences are recommended as they feel more natural. Nobody talks like that paragraph was written-well except for that boring teacher or preacher that put you to sleep 🙂

By the way, did you finish reading that short paragraph? 🙂

Hope this got you thinking.

-Jan R

 

 

Remember That One Teacher That Put You To Sleep?

The Hemingway Editor App-What do you think?

hemingwayappHave you heard of the Hemingway Editor App? If you’ve been writing for a while, you know about  grammarly and autocrit.  Both of these Apps focus on grammar and spelling. Hemingway takes it a step further. The App highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.
You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over them for hints.
Adverbs and weakening phrases are helpfully shown in blue. Get rid of them and pick words with force, perhaps.
Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice.
The Hemingway Editor App is like having your own personal editor on call.
Many of you may be familiar with this App, and if you are, I apologize, but I get excited when I run into something new that actually helps me with my writing, and I like to share tips that could be helpful to my readers.
The App isn’t free. It costs $19.99, but I think it’s worth it.
I’ve written numerous blogs on writing clear, concise sentences, and making every word count, but this is the first tool I’ve found that helps identify problem sentences.
When using Hemingway, don’t check your brain in at the door. The program will help improve your writing, but you are ultimately responsible for how your work turns out.
So what do you think? Have you tried the App?
-Jan R
The Hemingway Editor App-What do you think?

Write What You Mean

DanglingModifier.jpgAre you writing what you meant to write? Is your prose concise, and easy to understand? You may have one thing in mind when you write that sentence, only to discover it’s ambiguous, misleading, and sometimes quite humorous.

Dangling modifier- When a sentence  isn’t clear about what’s being modified it dangles. Keep in mind modifiers should be near what they modify. These are probably my favorite messed up sentences. While I hope I haven’t written or submitted any for publishing, I’m sure I’ve dangled a few in my time. They are confusing, but on the bright side, very funny.

The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.

Misplaced modifier- A phrase or clause placed awkwardly in a sentence so that it appears to modify or refer to an unintended word.

Lex called to talk about the meeting yesterday. Did Lex call yesterday or was the meeting yesterday? I’m confused.

 Ambiguous writing– It’s not spelled out. You didn’t provide enough information for your reader to understand what you’re trying to say. Ambiguous writing can leave your reader more confused than a misplaced modifier .

My older students know I say what I mean.

Are the student’s older in age or have they just been in his class a lot longer? It could mean either of the two.

Make sure you are saying what you mean. Be concise. Just something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Write What You Mean

Dangling Modifiers :-)

4803157_700bYou ever read sentences and stop? You go back and read them again and again. Sometimes you probably laugh out loud, because they’re funny and definitely not what the author had in mind.

You want see them that often in published work. By the time your manuscript hits the publishers desk, sentences like these have been cleaned up. At least they had better be if you want your work taken seriously. Watch out for those dangling modifiers and badly placed words.

A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.

A dangling modifier is misplaced because it doesn’t have anything to modify. The word or words a dangling modifier should modify have been omitted from the sentence. I know you hear professionals say cut, cut, cut, but some words should not be cut.

“Always suspect an -ing word of dangling if it’s near the front of a sentence; consider it guilty until proven innocent.” –Patricia O’Connor.

Incorrect: Reading the regulations, the dog did not enter the park.

  • “Reading the regulations” is a dangling modifier.
  • The dog cannot read the regulations; the word(s) that “reading the regulations” modifies have been omitted.

Correct: After reading the regulations, I did not enter the park with my dog.

And then there’s…

The kind mother, handed out bologna sandwiches to all the children in Ziploc bags. (What were they doing in Ziploc bags?)

The robber was in his late thirties and about 6’2″, with long curly hair weighing about 160 lbs. (I think I would cut a little bit of that hair.)

The homeowner chased the intruder wearing nothing but his underwear. (Who was wearing nothing but underwear?)

Just for laughs…..

  1. Coming out of the market, the bananas fell on the pavement.
  2. With his tail held high, my father led his prize poodle around the arena.
  3. I saw an accident walking down the street.
  4. Freshly painted, Jim left the room to dry.
  5. He held the umbrella over Janet’s head that he got from Delta Airlines.
  6. Lost: Antique walking stick by an old man with a carved ivory head.
  7. The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.

I know most of you have dangling modifiers down, but they are so much fun.

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

Dangling Modifiers :-)

‘ING’ Words-Good or Bad?

gerund_onlyToday as I revised my novel, I noticed something that should have leaped off the page during past reviews, but didn’t. I am having a love affair with ‘ing’. These ‘ing’ words are all over the place.

I stopped the revision process and did some research on ‘ing’. I remembered reading somewhere, that the overuse of ‘ing’ words was not a good thing.

Opportunities to overuse the ‘ing’ word are boundless. There are nouns, adjectives, verbs, and even verbs masquerading as nouns called gerunds, all ending in ‘ing’.

So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with ‘ing’ words?

The overuse of ‘ing’ words mark you as an amateur – Don’t be alarmed if you see more than a handful on one page. Do take a closer look if you see more than a handful in a single paragraph.

While wrapping a soothing sling around the fledgling’s broken wing, Diana was humming, dreaming of her prince charming. Yet troubling thoughts about his depressing friend Starling kept intruding, interrupting her very entertaining daydreams. There was something intriguing and alarming about him.

‘ing’ verbs weaken your writing and make it clumsy and hard to read .                                                                                                                                                                    Abigail was walking along the bike trail. There was a boy riding his bike. He was smiling up at her as she passed. She started wondering what the boy was so happy about.

Abigail walked along the bike trail. A boy smiled at her as he rode passed. She wondered what he was so happy about.

Starting a sentence with an ‘ing’ word is the weakest way to begin a sentence.

Hitting the thug in the face with her purse, Josie reached for her phone.

Josie hit the thug in the face with her purse and reached for her phone.

To identify overuse of ‘ing’ words in your writing, try this:

  1. Use the “search” or “find” function in your word processing app(usually under editing).
  2. Use ‘ing’ as your search term.
  3. Examine each ‘ing’ word you find.
  4. Ask whether the ‘ing’ word is essential to meaning.
  5. Determine whether a simple past or other tense might work better.
  6. Decide if a stronger word choice might be the way to go.

Once you identify ‘ing’ words, replace weak or common ones with specific, stronger word choices. Your writing will become more concise, clear, and engaging.

Remember, not all ‘ing’ words are bad. The issue is whether or not you have made the best word choice.

So much info on the internet. You get the cliff notes. Hope they help, or at least get you thinking  🙂

-Jan R

 

 

‘ING’ Words-Good or Bad?

How Do You Use Commas In Sentences You May Ask

Commas are an albatross around my neck. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic but they are frequently my downfall in writing prose. Unfortunately, they are the most common punctuation mark within sentences, so you had better learn their proper use.

What’s the purpose of commas?

  1. Separate main clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction.

example: The house was built, but it had no tenants.

The meal was cooked, and the kitchen was cleaned.

2.  Set off most introductory elements.

example: Unfortunately, the rest of the house was a mess.

Of course, I would love to go.

3.  Set off nonessential elements (phrases that could be removed from the sentence and

not effect its meaning.

example: The injury, sustained from the fall, needed to be taken care of.

The injury needed to be taken care of-is the actual sentence. The words set

apart by the commas are informative but not necessary to convey the idea.

4.  Separate item in a series/list.

example:  She had eggs, grits, sausage, and bacon for breakfast.

5.  Separate coordinate adjectives.

example:  She was an independent, hardworking woman.

The warm, cozy comforter was all I needed.

6.  Separate quotations and signal phrases( she said, he wrote, said Elsie).

example: “Knowledge is power,” wrote Francis Bacon.

Lisa said, “Do not walk on the grass.”

     There are some exceptions to this rule.

example: “That part of my life was over,” she wrote. “His words had sealed it shut.”

“Claude!” Jamie called.

James Baldwin insists that “one must never, in ones life,

accept…injustices as commonplace.” (It’s integrated into the sentence so

a comma isn’t necessary.)

7. Separate parts of dates, addresses, place names, and long numbers.

example:  July 4, 1776, is independence day.  December 1941(doesn’t need a comma)

Raleigh, North Carolina, is the location of NC State University.

Do not use a comma between a state name and a zip code.

Use the comma to separate long numbers in groups of three. With numbers of 4 digits,                     the comma is optional.

Okay, now you know what I know. This exercise was as much for me as it was for you.         Hopefully I can retain the information and use it, during my next revision 🙂

 

How Do You Use Commas In Sentences You May Ask