Editor’s Tip: How NOT to Choke Your Own Sentences

Authors make some pretty terrible mistakes over and over again. I would know, I’m an author. But I’m also an editor for a small publishing company. Here’s one common writing mistake that can mean the death of a novel.  

“Let’s jumble this sentence, add as many words, commas, etc, but not in the right places, and make this sentence as long as possible because, well, I don’t really know why, but I forgot I was still on the same sentence.”

Watch your words. A few EXQUISITE words are a whole lot better than a bucketload of kinda-okay words. One of the marks of a good writer is that he/she knows how to use words powerfully enough to use only a few and communicate a LOT. Uncertain and amateur writers get self-conscious about their choices of words, and say basically the same thing more than once.

Examples always help.

“I truly believe and think that there will always be a place and loving arms for AKC registered poodles in any home or residence in the world, because poodles, like many cats or dogs, are cute, adorable, kind, affectionate, and cuddly.”

Here’s how I would edit this sentence:

I truly believe and think that there (You never need to say “I believe/think.” This whole article is what you think. It’s understood)There will always be a place and loving arms for AKC registered (who cares?) poodles in any home or residence (this is basically a repeat, cluttering up the sentence and gunning down it’s power) in the world, because poodles, like many cats or dogs, (yes, it’s true, but everyone knows that, no need to say it) are cute, adorable, kind, affectionate, (watch out for comma-ridden descriptions, they tend to repeat themselves and get boring really fast) and cuddly.”

“There will always be a place for poodles in any home, because poodles are cute and cuddly.”

If you’re yawning at the end of your own sentence, something’s wrong. It’s tough, but if you want to get better, watch your word count and cut, cut, cut, ruthlessly. At the beginning, I was scared of cutting because I wanted to fill a book. But a filled book is worthless if it’s half full of junk words. Short is better than long.

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