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ANN BRADY

Author, Speaker & Mentor

WORDS (THAT) RUIN SENTENCES

Tell me? Do you know the difference between a good sentence, and a GREAT sentence?


One of the most interesting ‘writing rules’ I came across recently was while reading about Hemingway’s feelings on adverbs.


He absolutely hated them; calling them ‘lazy writing.’


For the uninitiated adverbs are any descriptor word which ends in -ly. For example: Lazily, Eerily, Honestly, Mostly, etc.


Strangely this is a rule that once known about could well change your my writing forever. Having said that you might still make the odd mistake by using one-too-many adverbs here and there, but at least you’ll try harder not to fill all your sentences with them.


Adverbs, I’ve learned, are in effect a passive way of saying the same thing that the sentence is already saying. As such you don’t need them.


Once you learn that rule and follow it, realising all the ways it can improve your writing, you may well want to start looking for even more rules. I know I did.


And, as it happened, I have learnt that it is important to remove all those ‘little words.’


The reason being, that those little words (especially when using turns of phrase such as ‘In so forth’ or ‘So much as’) have this knack of killing what could be a great, powerful, and concise sentence — often turning it into a sloppy mess.


For example:

[Here is an original sentence]: “One of the most common changes that occurs when people go off to university is that they become different versions of themselves.”


[If we Rewrite it]: “When people go off to university, they become different versions of themselves.”

As you read you will see that both sentences say the same thing. However, the second sentence reads ten times easier than the first.


The questions is why?


Well simply put - we removed all the little words:

One

Of

The

That

Is


So, the next time you are staring at a sentence but can’t quite put your finger on why it’s not reading the way you want it to, ask yourself this: “What little words can I delete?”


It’s that easy.


Of course, what you should remember is, that with writing, less is always more.


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