I did NOT see these edits coming…

If you’re reading the series documenting my journey though Stunk and White’s Elements of Style, you’ll know I was recently made aware of a handy piece of editing to be undertaken on my manuscript: talking in the positive form and my use of the word not.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 08.46.05As 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:

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Paragraphs, passive voice and positivity…

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 14.23.57So 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

“I cannot abide dialogue attribution,” he uttered angrily…

If the over-use of adverbs is one of writing’s biggest crimes, then dialogue attribution has to be up there with murder (and can easily murder a good novel). Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for adverbs in good writing, but that place is small, exclusive, and should be reserved for only the most upstanding and respectable adverbs. But – and it’s a bigger but than Kim Kardashian’s – when we come to adding an adverb to dialogue, well then that adverb must be really, really special to be allowed a place on the page.

For the most part, I like to talk about writing on this blog. Generally, I try to keep to what I think should be done when writing and how I personally like to do things… even though these two don’t often agree with each other. I don’t usually like to moan about the craft of writing, but sometimes, just sometimes, I get so cross I simply have to put pen to paper (so to speak). Continue reading

I get this… but I just don’t GET it

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.

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Colons, dashes, and broken sentences…

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.

The Elements of Style, Strunk and WhiteWhat 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.

I’ll do that. Thanks. 

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Parenthetic expressions, and what I learned from Tolstoy…

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. Rules 3 to 5.


3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

This is something that I have always done. Continue reading

A very short debate on the Oxford comma…

In my previous post I talked a little about the Oxford Comma. And in searching for an image for said post, I found this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 14.19.23 Continue reading