As writers, we all know redundant words such as that and very can (and should be) cut during the editing process. Until I read S&W’s book, however, I had no idea how also removing the word not can tighten up one’s prose. Writing in a more positive tone has a wonderful effect on the whole feel of a book… unless of course the mood you’re going for is one of darkness, hesitation and negativity; in that case let words like not, would, could,should,may or might come raining down. If not, dump them.
So, after reading this rule I used the ‘find’ tool and plodded though my manuscript looking for instances where I could replace negative phrases with more positive ones. I found 277 uses of the word not… that’s right, 277.
Here are just a few examples of the changes I made:
So here I am – after a time – back on my journey through Stunk and White’s Elements of Style and my attempt at applying every single rule to my manuscript.
Today covers rules 13, 14 and 15, and can I just say how nice it was of S&W to group these rules together thus allowing me to alliterate them into a catchy title. Thanks.
Anyway, on with the post.
Rule 13. Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
This rule basically tells us that writers should use the paragraph as a means of communicating intent to the reader. A paragraph can be used introduce a new topic as well as defining separate dialogue and punctuating prose. S&W make a good point on paragraph length saying in general, remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them. (True) But remember, too, that firing off many short paragraphs in quick succession can be distracting.Continue reading →
Just read this really handy post on Carly Watters blog of an agent’s view of first pages and how to improve them:
I’ve read thousands of “page ones.” Very often I don’t read page two.
Sometimes all I read is that first page and I make judgements based on what I see there. As an agent and a reader my practice is that if I’m not connecting with the material I move on–and quickly.
I wish I had time to give writers (and their books) more of a chance but I can tell a lot by one page: sense of dialogue, setting, pace, character, voice, and writing talent–yes, usually all from one page. Five at the most.
Part four of my series that looks to apply every single rule from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style to my manuscript. Today, rules 9, 10 & 11.
First of all, I shall admit that these last few rules on Elementary Rules of Usage are, for me, quite a ways from being elementary. In other words, I don’t really understand them. I can study rule 9 and place it into the context of my manuscript, but the others…? We’ll see.
And so here is the next instalment of my series that looks to apply every single rule from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style to my manuscript. Today, rules 6, 7 & 8.
6. Do not break sentences in two.
What S&W are saying here is to be careful with where you put a full-stop. Ok, so it sounds elementary and their example below is really just a case of bad writing:
I met them on a Cunard liner many years ago. Coming home from Liverpool to New York.
See. Just bad writing.
They do, however, mention the clipping of a sentence if a certain emphasis is warranted:
Again and again he called out. No reply.
I do this quite a lot in my writing. S&W’s advise on the matter is that it’s fine in dialogue, but when used in narrative one must ensure the emphasis is warranted lest a clipped sentence seem merely a blunder in syntax or in punctuation.