Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Omit Redundancy and You'll Liven the Prose

It's true.

In my humble opinion, you can turn a bland piece of writing into one of interest by taking the time to come up with alternate words for those that tend to become repetitive. Varying the length of your sentences, adding detail, and presenting your ideas in a closer POV and active way will also improve your writing.

The only reasons authors should be repetitive with words is 1) to create pieces for early readers as a teaching tool, and 2) to make something stand out. And it will only stand out if it's an oddity, right?

Consider the following sample:

This morning I woke up and started the coffee pot brewing. Then I set to work on the girls' lunches and started breakfast. I started a pot of cream of wheat simmering on the stove. Nothing better than a good hot cereal on a cold morning to start the day. Right? (Consider all the "started" and derivative of it in that passage and the similarity in sentence lengths.)

Now, lets read the same basic info arranged a little differently.

This morning I woke up and started the coffee pot brewing. I set to work on the girls' lunches and thought about what to prepare for breakfast while still half asleep. The chill in the air led me to look out the window. Pellet-like snow crashed onto my already snow-covered porch. Hugging myself, I decided a pot of hot cereal seemed an appropriate choice. Cream of wheat would warm them from the inside out. Right?

This isn't stellar in the least, but I think you can see that just by reworking the words, varying the sentence lengths, and adding in a little more detail with a closer POV, the read seems less bland. At least to me it does.

If you find a piece of your writing feels stagnant, consider narrowing in on what's the same in it. Sentence structure? Repetitive words? POV Distance? Passive? Try to shake things up, vary it, and see if it comes to life that way.



45 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.

1 comment:

Betsy St. Amant said...

Definitely less bland in the second paragraph! Great lesson.

Something one of my crit buds learned from a craft class (Hi Georgiana) and helped teach me is ending sentences on strong words. Not simply avoiding ending sentences in prepositions, but in really trying to get that strong word at the end, especially in paragraph breaks where the ending word stands out more on the page....