Sentences with muscle and verve carry our writing forward. How can we make them work harder and smarter? A few easy-to-apply ideas:
Treat a sentence as a mini-story: It can help propel your prose if you think of each sentence you craft as a story in and of itself. After all, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Make each part count.
Put your subject center stage: Using the passive voice, a habit many of us fall into all-too often, reduces your subject to an also-ran and saps its energy. Passive prose should be a choice, not a default. As you revise, turn passive sentences into active ones — your readers will thank you.
Go ink-fishing: “Ink-fish,” that‘s what poet and performance artist reg e gaines calls those pesky little words—articles, prepositions, and such. If we sprinkle too many of them in a sentence it can dilute the power of our “essentials”—nouns and verbs. When you rewrite, try ink-fishing.
Choose rich, robust verbs: We all know that verbs are the engines of writing: They propel our prose by creating action, by making things happen. Weak verbs are wispy-washy. Pump up your prose with peppy, provocative verbs, and you’ll drive your story forward.
Express complex ideas simply: We’ve all read convoluted, confusing sentences that seem to take a simple idea and dress it in fancy prose to puff it up and make it seem bigger and more insightful than it really is. One measure of good writing is the ability to craft sentences that express complex ideas simply. Work to make your sentences sing!
Vary your sentence length and rhythm: you craft and revise your sentences, be mindful of how they fit together. Sentences with the same rhythm lull your readers and hijack their attention. Varying sentence length in a paragraph keeps a story moving.
What approaches do you find most helpful for energizing your prose? I’d love to hear and share them as we all write on!
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