Saturday, August 25, 2007

2.0 Writing Stronger Sentences

A. Here’s the problem:
The sentence is the basic unit of expression in English. Nothing is more important to the success of your writing than your ability to create accurate, clear, meaningful sentences. Unfortunately, to adapt a phrase from Jimmy Buffett, while the sentence should be treated like a temple, some of you treat it like a tent, not giving it the respect and consideration it deserves. You write bloated, vague, garbled, or even incoherent sentences, often without realizing that you have done so.

B. What to do:
Ken Macrorie says good writing is “clear, vigorous, honest, alive, sensuous, appropriate, unsentimental, rhythmic, without pretension, fresh, metaphorical, evocative in sound, economical, authoritative, surprising, memorable, and light.” While that’s a daunting list of virtues, I hope to show you specific ways to make your sentences stronger, cleaner, and less cluttered. The following series of exercises is designed to highlight the differences between strong and weak sentences by raising your awareness of a few of the bad habits writers fall into.
C. Chapter Outline:

2.1 Weak repetition
2.2 Parallel structure
2.3 Awkward phrasing
2.4 Abstract and concrete diction
2.5 Clarity
2.6 Simplicity
2.7 Clutter I: Unnecessary words
2.8 Clutter II: More practice
2.9 Clutter III: A demonstration
2.10 Clutter IV: Pruning my own prose
2.11 Subordination