Wednesday, April 19, 2017

7 Ways To Clean Up Your Prose

Do yourself a favor. Clean up your prose. Sweep out the parts that detract from your story, your theme, your lesson you're trying to convey. 

Writers sometimes have a great story plan or a personal essay that is going to be instructive and memorable but, if there are lots of little things that take precedence over the main idea, then you are going to lose your reader. If the reader happens to be an editor, your story will not be accepted for publication. 

Frank Sinatra had a recording about the little things in a relationship that matter. And they do! So do the little things that you neglect to polish up or eliminate in your writing. What things are they? 

  1. Rambling or repeating information already stated
  2. Unnecessary words
  3. Too many passive verbs
  4. Too many adjectives
  5. Adverbs used after 'he said' in dialogue
  6. Cliches
  7. Sentence structure all alike
#1:  Writers who do this are ones who don't trust their reader to 'get it.' They want to be darned sure you get the point they are trying to make. Say it once and it's stronger.

#2:  We tend to use those unnecessary words in our everyday conversation but try to eliminate them in your writing. Words like just, really, currently, rather are extras and end up detracting from the main part of your sentence. If you first write Childhood poverty is the reason that Mary is so extravagant now. Read the sentence without the word that. It reads fine without that extra word.

#3:  Yesterday's post discussed active verbs.
#4:  Use one or two adjectives. More than that becomes overwhelming and detracting.

#5:  Some writers insist on telling us how a speaker looks or acts by using a descriptive adverb after 'he said.' "I mean it," he said angrily. His words alone or the situation or preceding dialogue should let the reader know how he said it. You don't need to point it out. Another case of not trusting your reader to 'get it.'

#6:  Cliches are far too easy to pull out of the air and plop into your writing. Readers want something new, not the old and trite.

#7:  Check to see that your sentence structures are varied. Mix short and long sentences. Don't begin multiple consecutive sentences with the same words--He was... Vary the order of your sentences--don't always start with subject and verb, use an introductory phrase for some. 

Clean up your writing and your story or essay will be far stronger and more appealing to a reader. It will also be more likely to get published.

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