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No more boring sentences

write well, fiction, how to write, writer

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like we, as writers, do get so wrapped up in the actions, thoughts and relationships of our characters that we completely forget to dress it up. Sentences get so long-winded in action and thought that any descriptive narrative is just left in the dust. With this tutorial, we will remedy that. Hopefully.

You may ask: What am I to do? And I shall tell you: You just need to start small, using basic descriptive words and work up to more complicated and sophisticated sentence structures.

  • Let’s start with a plain, basic sentence.

Ollie sat underneath the tree.

  • Let’s replace Ollie with a pronoun and give the tree a species.

boy sat underneath the willow tree.

  • Ask yourself this. How old is the boy? Is he very young? Or is he more of a teen? Is the tree dying? Is it a young tree? Use words like “young” or “lively” to give your character (or any other living things in the scene) an age group and a starting point to visualizing your character for the reader. We’re just going to call the boy “young” for right now.

young boy sat underneath the willow tree.

  • Now we need some sort of action the boy (or the tree) could be doing. just sitting isn’t going to cut it. when adding more action to a sentence, it would range anywhere from a single word to an entire phrase. just make sure that when you add the action that it moves with the rest of the sentence in a coherent fashion and that there is proper punctuation to accommodate it. for our little example sentence, we’re going to add a phrase.

A young boy sat underneath the willow tree, watching a breeze.

  • “Watching the breeze” sounded all nice and fluffy when we first put it, but after we’ve read it a few times it sounds sort sort of ridiculous. One can’t literally watch a breeze, right? Here we can just add an action for the breeze to be doing simultaneously with the action of the boy. The boy doesn’t even have to have any awareness of what the breeze is doing at all. So, we will just change a few words around and add something for the breeze to do.

A young boy sat underneath the willow tree, as a breeze flitted through the bulrushes.

  • Now that you are starting to get the hand of this, we can just skip a bunch of the steps and get to the end part, where we have a lovely and descriptive sentence worthy of opening your post. Below, as you can see, we added a few more choice words, replaced some things and moved some phrases around.

As a gentle breeze flitted through the bulrushes, a young boy sat contemplating underneath the ancient willow tree.

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Lost in Long Sentences?

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

When reading essays, books, and novels, many people enjoy traveling through long, complex sentences with twists and turns that lead to a satisfying end. But in business writing, readers want a short, clear path to understanding. Follow the four tips below to edit long sentences.

1. Include just one idea per sentence. When sentences have several ideas, readers need to figure out the relationship between the ideas. They need to suspend their understanding until they get to the period (full stop). In contrast, readers can quickly grasp each one-idea sentence and move on to the next.

The sentence below packs in three ideas. The punctuation makes is easy to recognize them.

I hope you will be able to attend, and if you need more information, please call or email me, and I will be glad to help you.
This revision shows that each idea can be a crisp sentence: I hope you will be able to attend. If you need more information, please call or email me. I will be glad to help you.

Test Yourself Number 1: Revise this three-idea sentence, whose length makes readers move slowly:

Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document and that you fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.
Revise the sentence to communicate just one idea per sentence. After you have tried, you can check my revision. It appears at the end of this article.
2. Begin with the subject, not the windup. 
In baseball, the windup is the pitcher’s actions before releasing the ball. Although important to the pitcher, the windup can distract the batter. The same is true of readers: If you begin a sentence with a fancy windup, you may lose your readers before releasing your main idea. Instead, start with your subject.This sentence has a dizzying windup, which makes it too long and complicated:

With over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security, Lance James provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions.
If the sentence began with the subject, Lance James, rather than the long windup, it would be two clearer sentences:
Lance James has over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security. He provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions.
Test Yourself Number 2: Start with the subject rather than the long windup in this sentence, so readers do not struggle to understand its meaning:
By keeping the three critical success factors in mind and talking with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue, you should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor.

My revision appears at the end of the article.

3. When a sentence is too long or has more than one idea, try inserting a period (full stop) in place of the word andSometimes your sentences will ramble on because you have forgotten to take a breath and give your reader one. Replacing and with a period may help, as it would in this sentence:
Thanks for your cooperation on this project and we look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.
This revision communicates in two powerful sentences: Thanks for your cooperation. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.Sometimes replacing and with a period requires the addition of a word. In the sentence below, which word would you use to replace and? 

The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors and helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.

Your revision might look like mine: The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors. It helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.

Test Yourself Number 3: Break up this long sentence by inserting a period and replacing and. Then compare your revision with mine, which appears at the end of the article.

Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007 and are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.

4. Do not let a long list transform your sentence into a solid wall of text. Often you need to include a list in your writing. But a sentence burdened with a long list can become a blur to your reader. If that happens, your reader will not see any of the important information in your list. The solution is to break up the long, heavy sentence into bullet points or short sentences that keep your reader’s attention.

How would you revise this list-heavy sentence?

Your daily work will include counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations, representing the company with various groups, supporting the needs of individual plants, managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications, placing community advertising, and publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship.
This revision helps each point stand out for the reader:
Your daily work will include:
  • Counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations.
  • Representing the company with various groups.
  • Supporting the needs of individual plants.
  • Managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications.
  • Placing community advertising.
  • Publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship.
Test Yourself Number 4: Restructure this long sentence so that each part stands out:
If new information concerning the case should come to your attention, if you should leave the area for more than a few days, or if you should change your address or telephone number, please advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent immediately.
How long is too long? Sometimes long sentences are not difficult to understand. But a document filled with long, complex sentences will slow down readers and could lose them. Strive for an average of no more than 20 words per sentence–15 is better. Also, do not allow yourself to include sentences of more than 35 words in your final draft. If a sentence gets that long, break it in two (or three) or cut words.
Solution to Number 1:
Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document. Also, please fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application. This step is just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.
Solution to Number 2:  
You should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor if you do these two things: Keep the three critical success factors in mind. Talk with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue.
Solution to Number 3:
Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007. They are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.
Solution to Number 4: 
Please immediately advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent if any of these occurs:
  • New information concerning the case comes to your attention.

  • You leave the area for more than a few days.

  • You change your address or telephone number.

Image source

18 Common Words That You Should Replace in Your Writing

It’s a familiar scene: you’re slumped over your keyboard or notebook, obsessing over your character. While we tend to agonize over everything from structure to backstory, it’s important to weigh how you write something too. A perfectly constructed world is flat on the page if you use feeble, common words. When you’re finished constructing your perfectly balanced world, do your writing a favor and take another pass to weed out these 18 haggard words.

Good

High on any list of most used English words is “good.” While this word may appear to be the perfect adjective for nearly anything, that is precisely what makes it so vague. Try getting more specific. If something’s going well, try “superb,” “outstanding” or “exceptional.”

New

Another of the common words in English is “new.” “New” is an adjective that doesn’t always set off alarm bells, so it can be easy to forget about. Give your writing more punch by ditching “new” and using something like “latest” or “recent” instead.

Long

Much like “new,” “long” is spent, yet it doesn’t always register as such while you’re writing. Instead of this cliché phrase, try describing exactly how long it is: “extended,” “lingering” or “endless,” for example.

Old

“Old” is certainly one of those common words that means more to readers if you’re specific about how old a subject is. Is it “ancient,” “fossilized,” “decaying” or “decrepit”?

Right

“Right” is also among the common words that tends to slip through our writer filters. If somebody is correct, you could also say “exact” or “precise.” Don’t let habit words like “right” dampen your writing.

Different

Here’s another adjective that falls a bit flat for readers, but can also easily be improved by getting more specific. Saying something is “odd” or “uncommon” is very different than saying it is “exotic” or “striking.”

Small

“Small” is another adjective that is too generic for writing as good as yours. Use “microscopic,” “miniature” or “tiny” instead. Even using “cramped” or “compact” is more descriptive for your audience.

Large

Just like relying too much on “small,” we tend to describe large things as, well, “large.” Specificity is a big help with this one too: could your subject be “substantial,” “immense,” “enormous” or “massive”?

Next

Whenever we describe something coming “next,” we run the risk of losing our readers. Good options to make your reading more powerful include “upcoming,” “following” or “closer.”

Young

Another case of being too generic is what makes “young” a problematic adjective. If you want your writing to be more captivating, try switching “young” out for “youthful,” “naive” or “budding.”

Never

“Never” is also among common words to use sparingly. Not only is it a common, stale descriptor, it’s also usually incorrect. For something to never happen, even one instance makes this word inaccurate. Try “rarely,” “scarcely” or “occasionally” instead.

Things

“Things” is another repeat offender when it comes to worn out words. Another word where specificity is the key, try replacing “things” with “belongings,” “property” or “tools.”

All

Just like “never,” “all” is an encompassing, absolute term. Not only is “all” unoriginal, it’s not usually factual. Try using “each” and “copious” instead.

Feel

“Feel” is also in the company of common English words. Try using “sense,” or “discern” instead. You can also move your sentence into a more active tense: “I feel hungry” could become “I’m famished,” for example.

Seem

“Seem” is bad habit word we are all guilty of using. Regardless of how well you think your sentence is constructed, try switching “seem” out for “shows signs of.” “Comes across as” is another good option to give your writing more power.

Almost

Another easy adjective to let slip by, “almost” is a wasted opportunity to engage your readers. “Almost” is more interesting if you say “practically,” “nearly” or “verging on” instead.

Just

“Just making” it or “just barely” affording something isn’t very descriptive. To truly grab a reader, we must do better. Try “narrowly,” “simply” or “hardly” to give your phrasing more weight.

Went

Last but not least, avoid using the common word “went” to describe your subject. “Went” is a word that lacks traction. Try using “chose,” “decided on” or “rambled” to truly grab your readers.

SOURCE
Image courtesy

Essential Sites for Writers

http://aroundtheredmap.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/do-not-disturb.jpg

MG Mason, in his wonderful blog Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink, has compiled a great list of resources.


Writing & Language Tools

  1. Blabla meter for when you really need to be told that there’s too much waffle in your writing
  2. FreeMind: a brainstorming tool
  3. English Stack Exchange. A very nerdy linguistics resource
  4. Evernote: A cloud application that makes for a good tool for storing and sharing research and notes across multiple devices
  5. Onomatopoeia dictionary Ta-dah! needs no explanation
  6. Oxford Dictionaries British-American English Comparison. Want to know your pavement from your sidewalk or your aubergine from your eggplant? And what is a courgette anyway?
  7. Synonym Finder (and antonyms) for all of your word finding needs
  8. VisuWords is a clever dictionary/thesaurus/wordfinder/word association tool that uses a graphical interface
  9. Wordnik: An encyclopaedia of words. Antonyms, synonyms, etymology, demonstrated use. Create lists of your favourites
  10. Write or Die: Creative writing sadism with punishment for not keeping up

Writing prompts

  1. Creative Writing Prompts. Some simple ideas to get you started
  2. With Painted Words: Picture prompt. Earn money too!

eBooks

Edited by Zoe

600 free books for kindle iphone ipadfree-books2


Other

  1. Book Crossing: Give a book away but first put a label on containing a unique code from this website. Then watch it travel the world.
  2. Rare Book Room: HQ digital photographs of some of the rarest books on the planet. Examine them without having to visit the national library in another country and more importantly, without damaging them
  3. Read It Swap It: Have lots of books in storage that you don’t want to give away, can’t sell and will never likely read again? How about swapping it for another book? Simple premise and it works. I’ve acquired three books through this site already.
  4. Librivox: Download free audiobooks voiced by volunteers. Or perhaps you might want to volunteer yourself

20 book sites audio books download free

Check his blog at:

Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink


Time for awards

It has been a little while since my last post. I’ve been thinking about the three nominations I got the last month.

And with no apparent reason it freaked me out to the point of quitting the very entering in my blog for a couple of days.

‘Why?!’ would you ask, ‘it is considered a good thing, an honor, not a golliwog-buggaboo-scarecrow for bloggers!’

Yeah, ahm, you don’t say… Somewhere deep in my mind I should probably think that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and even though it is not actually a ‘power’, it is certainly a change. You know that there are people who tend to fail tests, not because they are not prepared but because they are stunned? Well, I am a different weirdo. I am the only person I know, who cries out of sorrow when they get promoted. A full-blown cry-me-a-river soap opera episode over… nicer, bigger office and new business cards with a fancy position on them (I don’t cry over the salary, I quite like that part).

I have many things to write and share with you, many interesting findings but I am still stuck in now-what-do-I-say-about-the-awards phase.

My award speech will not be perfect, it will not be even excellent but I need it over with, so I could concentrate on the more important topics and issues.

Please, pretty please help me out (by not judging it’s ok) 🙂


As they are similar in their Terms and Conditions and, more importantly, as I am again starting to panick, I will combine them in one list of

7 things you don’t know about me:

1. This is me at the age of 6 2 (give or take).

(hey you, nobody noticed that I look a tad bit young for a 6-years old?)

2. I am 27,5 years old.

3. I am a (sky)lark, waking up without alarm at about 5 o’clock (and going to bet at 20:30) 🙂

4. At the age of three, I decided that I want to become a teacher. Then my dreames changed several times when I was teenager.

5. I currently work in the renewable energy field . Hooray for the sustainable future.

6. I got married the Las Vegas style (outside LV).

7. I am trained in biology and chemistry (German major), electrical engineering and graduated in English studies 🙂 What a well-rounded candidate, ladies and gentlemen!

Nominated by:

Thank you Kip (John)! 🙂

Thank you, Pat! 🙂

My nominations:

Terms and conditions: 

To claim the price, please publish 7 things that bloggers don’t know about you and then nominate the next 7 blogs. Inform the bloggers about the nomination. Use the award image for your blog.

The Liebster Blog Award

1.      What is your favorite type of book to read?

Fiction and/or books on how to improve a certain aspect of your life, work or relationships.

2.      Do you have a pet?

Nope, if we do not count Zoe-hardy plants.

3.      If you could live in any era of the past, what era would you pick and why?

My golden age should be the 1950s. Love the fashion 🙂  Besides that I would not change my era. 🙂

4.      Who is your favorite singer?

I cannot quote someone as my particular favourite. But if you insist on names: Adele, Lara Fabian, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti, …

5.      On a free evening, would you choose TV? Movies? or Books?

The latter two. It depends on whether I would be alone or in a company.

6.      What toppings do you like on a Pizza?

Tomatoes (slices), mushrooms, paprika, onions, olives, sometimes pickles and rarely tuna.

7.      Name a food that you could eat every day.

Potatoes. Baked, fried, steamed, mashed, cooked. Potatoes it is.

8.      If money was no object, what would you buy?

Off the top of my head: pay my tuition fees for the university of my dreams, Cambridge. If you gave me more than one option, I would give you a three-foot long list with things.

9.      As a child, were you naughty or nice?

Uh- oh, I always seemed to be nice, sweet, and kind. Now, try to forbid me something, I would scratch out your eyes and do what I were heading to. 🙂

10.   What is your favorite season?

Early spring and by the same token, early autumn.

11.   Are you a coffee person or a tea person?

Is there a water person? If not, I will opt for the tea 🙂

Nominated by:

Thank you! 🙂

My nominations:

  1. http://kokopellibeefreeblog.wordpress.com/
  2. http://writtenbyabriton.wordpress.com/
  3. http://shopofmindstuff.wordpress.com/
  4. http://emmasmithphotography.wordpress.com/
  5. http://ashaseth.wordpress.com/
  6. http://hunterswritings.wordpress.com/
  7. http://alwaysthewritetime.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/getting-where-you-want-to-go/
  8. http://busyteacher.wordpress.com
  9. http://learnbritishenglish.wordpress.com/
  10. http://learnbritishenglish.wordpress.com/
  11. http://jenningswright.wordpress.com/

Terms and conditions:

Please answer the questions below. Nominate 11 people and use the same questions or write your own.

  1. Name a book you would read over and over again?
  2. If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be?
  3. Who was your favorite teacher and why?
  4. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
  5. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
  6. What is your favorite dessert?
  7. What is your least favorite mode of transportation?
  8. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  9. If money was no object where would you live and why?
  10. What is your dream career?
  11. What movie do you flat-out refuse to watch, no matter how good people say it is?

Now am I allowed to decorate my blog with the awards now or am I missing something else? 🙂

Yours much-calmer-now,

A Million Thank-Yous

Dear all,

This is my 18th day of active posting(of 23 from the start) and also the day I reached my first 1.000 hits.

I want to thank you!

Please click to hear me 🙂

Next step 10.000 🙂 I shall get better with time  (or, at least will strive and hope to:) )

And before it gets too cheesy…

Thank you again,

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