CLEAN UP YOUR MANUSCRIPT
Run a search for connecting words such as and, but, or and because:
When you find one of these words, stop and re-read the sentence carefully, considering the possibility of changing the two connected clauses into separate sentences. An occasional over-long sentence is inevitable and fine, but variety is critical. You do not want to put your reader to sleep because you over-use the same sentence length and form.
Pay careful attention to the way your words fit on the page:
Extra-long sentences lead to extra-long paragraphs. Extra-long paragraphs slow the story’s action and make your work harder to read.
Keep in mind the effect of form on your reader
Use longer sentences and paragraphs to deliberately slow your reader down when you are setting up for an important scene. After the set-up, use shortened sentences and paragraphs to speed up the action. You can gradually shorten your paragraphs and sentences until the reader feels forced to read faster and faster to find out what is going to happen. It is perfectly all right to shorten down to a one-sentence paragraph for emphasis just before a dramatic scene begins.
Slowing the action by changing the way your words look on the page may also be useful just after the climax of a big exciting scene. Longer sentences and one or two longer paragraphs are calming. They offer you the opportunity to give the reader insights into your character’s reaction to the scene.
Do not repeat key words or names within a paragraph. Find other nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs that mean the same thing:
Stop a little earlier at the end of each stint of writing and go over your finished work for any repetitive use of a word—any word. If you can find a way, replace it with another conveying the same meaning. If it seems imperative to re-identify the subject of your paragraph by name, you need a new paragraph.
When writing about Governor Dan Brown, a reporter or historian will use Governor Brown, the governor, he and Brown. Some will then turn around and use “he” again. (If you have to start that list over in the same paragraph, your paragraph is probably too long.)
There are times when using another way of saying a name is impossible, but the same words used over and over, even if they are a character’s name, can be mind-numbing for your reader.
Watch out for repeated use of a certain phrase as well—also mind numbing—and possibly aggravating for your reader:
Some of the greatest writers have pet words and sayings they repeat more than they should. Almost every writer also has one or even two crutch words or phrases he or she repeats over and over. Find yours and eliminate them before your editor or agent does.
Search for and remove extra--unnecessary words creating convoluted, run-on sentences:
Some of the worst culprits in creating run-on sentences are when, and, but, because and or when they are used to introduce subordinate clauses.
When you remove the “and” “but” “or” “because” in many long sentences, they will usually yield two complete sentences. Consider removing these words to make the two complete clauses they joined into separate sentences.
Do a word processor search for each word listed above. Stop—read the entire sentence--eliminate the offending word wherever possible without losing meaning. Create complete separate sentences with some of the clauses. You will not have to do this many times until you automatically question every overly long sentence you write.
TEST THIS SENTENCE AS ANOTHER EXAMPLE:
--Historians and other academics write for other academics and give no thought to the reader who may get lost before he gets this far and may throw the book across the room because he is puzzled or completely bored--
The above sentence is not unusual although it contains four “ands” an “or” and even a “because.”
Anne H. Holt
Find Anne's Books at: amazon.com/author/ahholt
Writers read---a lot.