Remember, I am not a grammar teacher nor a grammar expert.
I am a perpetual student.
I know. I haven't written an Avoid post in a while. I needed to review and refresh my memory on a few writing points, and in doing so, these struck me as important because I don't practice them enough.
A. Avoid Passive Voice: We learned this in high school English class, but still, when writing we tend to write as we speak. And how do most of us speak? In a passive voice. We use "was" too much, instead of writing the sentence using active verbs.
All writers know this, but many of us--I, especially--tend to slide into the easier passive voice.
At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard.
The cock's crow came with dawn.
The reason he left his job was that his health became impaired.
Failing health compelled him to leave his job.
On the wall to the right was a sign that listed names of occupants and floor numbers.
A sign that listed names of occupants and floor numbers hung on the wall to the right. (from my WIP Texas Dreamer)
B. Avoid Writing in a Way That Is Unnatural to You: This is difficult to explain and might seem contradictory to A. Bottom line, write as you speak or as your characters might speak, but don't think your writing is completely correct. I have said, and will say again, I write as I speak. If I began to write in a precise grammatical way, my writing would be stiff and unnatural. However, I do edit and make corrections later if needed.
Case in point: An editor rejected my first submitted manuscript with these words: "Your characters and plot are good, but your writing reads like a textbook. You see? I wrote as I had always written serious papers and scientific research papers for two degrees. I did not know the basics of writing fiction. The editor told me my writing was without emotion, too, because of this manner of writing. Just the facts, ma'am.
I had to learn how to write fiction, and it was a steep learning curve.
The key is to "let yourself go" as you write. Later, re-read, and correct any dialogue or narrative told in Passive Voice.
Textbook: When Abraham Lincoln became president in 1861, he swore to the nation that he had no intention of interfering with the institution of slavery.
My way: In 1861, President Lincoln swore he wouldn't interfere with slave owners.
C. Avoid the Use of Prepositional Phrases, especially that are at the end of a sentence. They leave a weak finish. (to her, at him, for her, etc.)
Seeing him today proved what a complete distraction he was to her.
Seeing him today proved what a complete distraction he was.
She stared in speechless dismay at him.
She stared in speechless dismay.
(or) She stared.
D. Avoid the Offbeat: Words and phrases that might be common today, especially among young writers, will become out-of-date and off-putting to the reader. When I read a novel set in 1845, I expect the characters to use words and phrases of the day. But the narrative of a novel set in 1845 should not contains words or phrases from 1960 or 2013.
The psyched group chanted.
The excited group chanted.
What a rip-off!
What a cheap imitation!
Lord Byron dressed in a funky suit for the ball.
Lord Byron dressed in an odd, quaint suit for the ball.
|MORE WORDS TO AVOID|
Comments? Avoids of your own?
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