Improve Your Style

Editing Your Writing

Nothing helps make your message more effective than simply re-reading it several times. You can do this in your mind, you can read it aloud, or even have your computer read it to you. Whichever of those methods you use, listen for cadence and flow. The flow may sound “choppy” if you use a lot of unnecessary conjunctions (but, or, yet, and, because, nor, since, that …) or even worse: compound conjunctions (as well, as well as, as long as, so that, even if, in order to …) Excise these whenever possible if it doesn’t detract from your meaning. Misuse or overuse of conjunctions is only one thing that causes a reader to trip and stumble through your work. By re-reading your work you will probably find other word or phrase-choices that detract from flow. Comments and Suggestions are welcome here.

Update – Nov. 17, 2019

As an excellent example of writing which flows beautifully see this Atlantic article by Yoni Applebaum, senior editor:

I am an amateur author, literary critic, poet and screenwriter. As a recently retired banker, IT salesman and software configuration manager, I write about my passions which are: the magic of English rhetoric, speculative science, drama, music and —with a jaundiced eye—occasionally, politics. With the exception of a year at University of the Pacific's Mc George School of Law, I am a product of the California public educational system, from primary school through high school, two community colleges and , San Francisco State College pursuing an English Major with Creative Writing emphasis, in the early 1960s. While at SF State I was taught by professors like S.I. Hayakawa and Manfred Wolf. Doctor Wolf, now professor at the Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning at University of San Francisco, was my professor of Critical Writing and a true mentor. Today he is still a close friend and occassional collaborator.

4 comments on “Editing Your Writing

  1. I’ll get the ball rolling by posting the first comment. This blog is meant to be a place to collaborate. Whether you’re here to learn or here to mentor other writers, your comments will be what gives all of this a justification for existing.

    Like

  2. Don’t let me hog all of the comment space, y’all. 🙂 But, I thought of another hint for improving flow. Simply this: The infinitive — to run, to think, to eat, to realize — is inherently choppy. The progressive — running, thinking, eating, realizing — is inherently smooth it comes “trippingly on the tongue…(and) you [will] acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness” Who can argue with “The Bard.” 🙂
    But caveat: don’t abandon the staccato of the infinitive when a point of emphasis justifies slowing your reader down. That’s why good writing is “Art.” Art is wishy-washy, analog, subtle. Perfection in Art isn’t digital, one-or-zero, perfect-or-garbage. Thank God. 🙂

    Like

  3. The quest for a straightforward active voice is daunting at times. It can become artificial, too. Conversational style is the gold standard, it appears, for today’s writer. But, I fear, it can become an excuse for laziness. I told one of my students, you have to know the rules of grammar before you can break them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point, Sir, and so true. I still feel guilty when ending a sentence with a preposition, even though I Know it’s the best choice for the context and the venue. I wish there were a method for teaching grammar without all the jargon and esoteric nomenclature. As a pre-schooler I was immersed in reading and conversation by my mother, an executive secretary. In the primary grades, a couple of times my primary grade teachers asked “How is it that your grammar is so perfect? How did you know that was correct? I could only answer, “I don’t know, it just ‘sounds’ right.” Thank you for being our first mentor/contributor. 🙂 VMK

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: