Sunday, December 08, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Revision-Self Editing-Data-Individual Words
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: April 24, 2013
Finding words that indicate passive constructions, terminations, hyphens, weak verbs, and such is a tedious job but a necessary one. To list every one of them is also tedious, so we won’t ask writers to do that. Instead we use the Find feature under the Edit menu. We punch in each of the words we have listed along the way and then click “Find all,” and the program will highlight each time we’ve used the word. Let’s say we begin with one of the usual suspects and type in “was”. We scroll through and examine each use of the word and rewrite to eliminate it whenever possible. Then we type in the next word, and do the same. For adverbs, it’s even easier. We just type in “ly,” and the handy little function highlights every word that includes “ly” for us. We examine each one again and correct when we can.
Look for the word “that.”
We can often delete ninety-five percent without losing meaning.
Don’t: He sank into the chair that faced the window.
Do: He sank into the chair facing the window.
Don’t: Bob told me that you hated me.
Do: Bob told me you hated me.
Don’t: Catherine pulled out the book that he’d given her.
Do: Catherine pulled out the book he’d given her.
Search for to her, to him, for her, for him, at her, at him, etc.
These are often implied and can be deleted. Prepositional phrases placed at the end of a sentence weaken it.
Don’t: Following the trail, she realized he’d never come back to her.
Do: Following the trail, she realized he’d never come back.
Don’t: Mike stared at him.
Do: Mike stared.
Evaluate each “ly” adverb we find and try to replace it with a stronger verb.
Weak: She leaned to his ear and spoke softly.
Strong: She leaned close and whispered.
Weak: The maid raked the brush through her impossibly tangled hair.
Strong: The maid raked the brush through her tangled hair.
“Seemed to,” “tried to,” “began to,” and “started to” weaken our prose.
When we see these, we delete and use the simple past tense of the verb to make the sentence active.
Weak: Julie’s face seemed to crinkle.
Active: Julie’s face crinkled.
Weak: He tried to begin the story again.
Active: He began the story again.
Weak: Mark started to run.
Active: Mark ran.
Search for all uses of the word “eye” and if it refers to an action an eye makes. We replace “eye” with the word “gaze.”
No: Her eyes dropped to the floor.
Yes: Her gaze dropped to the floor.
When we’re using “eyes” to describe their color or state, then we can leave it.
Avoid using the word “it” too often as a subject.
In most cases, we can strengthen the sentence by replacing vague pronouns with strong nouns.
Example: It sapped all of her energy just to walk up the stairs.
Better: The climb up the stairs sapped all of her energy.
Example: It was nice to see him.
Better: She enjoyed seeing him.
Weak verbs are rampant in many rough drafts.
Search for the following and replace with a more visual verb to make the action stronger.
Move, push, pull, press, bring, brought, reach, went, came.
Sometimes, as in the case of “reach,” we don’t need the word at all.
Search and replace or delete common words.
Check beginning interjections such as “oh” and “well” and make sure the comma is present.
Well, I wanted to go, but he didn’t ask.
Oh, you’re in trouble.
Watch out for telling verbs.
Watch for weak verbs like “saw,” “watched,” “heard,” “thought,” “felt,” “knew,” “moved,” and “reached.” These are often unnecessary and tend to pull the reader away from the present story. Telling phrases that include these words can be rewritten so that they’re no longer redundant.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
to leave a comment, or Login using
No Comment Found.
Fact or Fiction?
Quote of the Day
The Craft of Writing
Terms of the Trade
Terms of Service
Work with Us
Copyright © 2011 OFW. All Rights Reserved.