Monday, December 09, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Technical Flaws-Variety-Sentence Structure-Rambling Sentences
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: April 03, 2013
Rambling sentences are easy to spot, and a common mistake (intentionally or unintentionally) made by writers. These sentences are made up of many clauses and connected by a conjunction such as “and” or “so.”
She rolled over and slammed a fist on the alarm clock, and pulled the blanket over her head because she did not want to get up, so this would make her very late for work, which would not go over well with her boss.
We should remove rambling sentences, if only to ensure the reader won’t pass out from reading such longwinded passages. Look for sentences that contain three or more conjunctions (and, so, but) and read these aloud. If we run out of breath, we’ve written a rambling sentence and should rewrite. Rambling sentences are not the same as run-on sentences. Rambling sentences aren’t technically wrong; they are simply irritating for the reader. A better, more balanced sentence structure would be:
She rolled over and slammed the alarm clock, pulling the blanket over her head. This would make her late for work, which would not go over well with her boss.
If your sentence stretches over many lines of writing, you have certainly written a rambling sentence and risk a run-on sentence. Once we’ve cleaned up the problems, we can look to sentence length to create variety and add rhythm to the prose.
Sentence lengths must be varied to match the tone and the emotion in each scene, but not with incorrect structures. Each sentence must lead naturally into the next, creating coherent ideas. We don’t set out to annoy the reader with our run-ons and our rambles, but often, when trying to vary sentence length, we sacrifice clarity. We should read the writing out loud, paying attention to how we’ve punctuated it and listening closely. If it sounds awkward or unclear, the reader will have the same experience.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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