Common Errors In Writing
We have all heard of KISS... Keep It Simple Stupid, or the nicer Keep It Simple Silly. This saying applies to all of our writing, whether we are writing a haiku, or a thesis for our graduate program. It is very important that we keep our writing simple and precise. Often times we fall in love with our wording, which is very dangerous as far as a potential publishing goes. We often are afraid that if we cut a sentence that we love, we are taking away the artistic element of our work. Ironically, it is knowing when to cut out a word, sentence, or even full paragraphs that will enhance the aesthetic quality. Here are some ways to recognize when it is important to cut your work!
Writing Simple Sentences
Beware of Redundancy: One of the most common mistakes in writing is being redundant. By repeating yourself, it can make a paragraph sound awkward, or too wordy. One way of avoiding this may be to combine two sentences into one. Here is a good example:
2 Sentences: I went to the zoo with my daughter. At the zoo, her favorite animals were the monkeys.
1 Sentence: My daughter's favorite animals were the monkeys when we went to the zoo.
It's shorter, and it sounds better.
Use One Word Rather Than Three Words: Avoiding redundancy is one way to keep sentences simple, another is to compact your wording. By keeping sentences less wordy, the story flows more evenly and keeps the reader's interest. A thesaurus becomes very useful in helping with this. Often times, a writer in their first draft may find themselves defining the word itself rather than using the word they intended. For example:
The 'smells that filled the air' reminded me of a nice spring morn.
The aroma reminded me of a nice spring morn.
The second sentence flows much better, which is often the case when you shorten your wording.
Writing Fiction Tips
Make Sure It Contributes to the Story: Another common mistake among writers, especially ones writing fiction is adding irrelevant details to the story. What we write should strengthen the integrity of the story or article, not detract. Authors may run into this, because they like the way it sounds, not because it is relevant to the story. Some of the early 1900 writers are guilty of this as they spend chapters describing scenery. Although it's beautiful, it can become dry after a while, and takes away from the easy flow of the story.
Another example of this might be if two characters are having a very insightful conversation. Often times a writer might say,
As I pushed the door open, I glanced across the room in search for my young friend in his early twenties. Once I saw him, I walked past the young blonde waitress wearing a red checkered apron. I took my hand and flourished it above the seat dusting it before I sat across from him.
Most of what is written will not contribute to the story, especially if the waitress mentioned, never appears before or after in the story. Before you write, think about your purpose. This will help add details that sound nice, without adding superfluous information. For example, if the intent is to add suspense, then it would be wiser to write words that indirectly describe his feelings.
I wrung my hands like they were a dish towel as I approached my friend. The waitress taking orders was irritatingly peppy and I could only hope that she wasn't mine. As I sat down across my friend, I dusted the seat trying to postpone the inevitable.
The wringing of hands shows nervousness about something adding relevant information. Although this is similar to flourishing your hand over the seat to dust it off, the difference is that wringing of the hands sets a mood, whereas the flourishing of the hand is just extra detail. Any details added to your story should contribute to the overall tone of the story.
In the second paragraph, the mention of the waitress is important, whereas it is not in the first paragraph. Even though the waitress will not appear later in the story, the second paragraph uses this character wisely. By describing her as "irritatingly peppy," it shows that the main character is on edge. On the other hand, the first paragraph's description of the waitress does not add anything to the narrative.
Editing Your Writing
Beware of Using Unnecessary Words: A common mistake many people make is using unnecessary words. Therefore, it is important that when you are editing, to take a special read through of your articles to eliminate these extra words. Some common superfluous words are just, so, that, to name a few. If you know these are common extra words that you use, do a search in Windows or other program that you are using for these words. The program will scan the words, and then you can read the sentence without the word, and see if the word is necessary. Take for example the following:
So, as I was just walking across my yard, I saw a beautiful new Harley that looked enticing to me to ride.
As I was walking across my yard, I saw a beautiful new Harley enticing me to ride.
By deleting these extra words, your work is tighter and more readable. An editor will appreciate your attentiveness.
Just like many of you, I often fall in love with my writing. I will write what I feel is a captivating sentence. When told the sentence is utterly useless, I feel tension at just the mere thought of cutting it. But in all reality, most of the time, when cutting words it actually makes a story, an article, or any other writing stronger.
© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz