Friday, August 3, 2007

Brevity, Again

and other modifiers that do nothing but lengthen sentences. I have learned, however, a few ways to avoid stuffing them into my sentences in the first place.

My recent posts on avoiding the passive voice have helped, especially the one on -tion words. Another trick that I use is to keep an eye out for gerunds at the beginning of sentences. If I find an –ing word at the start there is almost a version of “to be” as the verb and between the two I’ve got a passive sentence. Between the two, I nip 90% of my wordiness in the bud.

There are a hundred different ways that extra words sneak into your writing (and mine). For an excellent discussion of them, visit Right Words.

They rightly point out that you can get carried away with editing for brevity. You have to keep the clarity of your piece in mind as you slash the dead wood. Cutting too much kills the tree, after all. You can leave your readers with a series of puzzling half-thoughts instead of a coherent argument. Use descriptions when necessary so that you can catch your readers’ attention and fire their imaginations.