Nothing annoys me more than so many big words that I need a dictionary to understand the book. On the other hand, nothing annoys me more than someone who is writing at a third grade level. You see, there is a balance to be had here. I don’t want to feel written down to nor do I want to feel illiterate. It seems to be that many writers these days overuse that Thesaurus, thinking it makes them sound more literate and polished. Actually, it does the opposite and I for one am saying ‘stop it!’
So, the trick to accomplishing the middle-of-the-road is use straightforward language. The basic way to simplify writing is to use simpler words, just don’t make it too simple. Simple verbs, nouns or adjectives—tend to have broader meanings, while complex words have more specific meanings. What it boils down to is you have a lower margin for error when you use simpler words. Replace a ‘less common’ word with a more ‘every-day’ word . . . . and you’ll find your dialog will flow better and more natural.
While we’re on the subject of ‘flow,’ let’s discuss long sentences. I’m a stickler for shorter sentences. Why? Well, have you ever had to go back and re-read a sentence because it was too long and it became confusing? Well I have. That’s why I’m so conscious of those dreaded long sentences. It’s a simple fact, your writing will be clearer if you remove long sentences.
What is the easiest way to do this? Take a long sentence and create two or more shorter sentences from it. This will accomplish a couple of things. First it is faster to read. In the case of a scary scene, it will add suspense. It removes the need for too many commas. Using shorter sentences does not mean that all sentences should be short. That would do nothing but create a choppy writing style. Learn to use short and long sentences throughout your story. Learn as well how to use sentence variety.
That leads us to the book where the writer repeats a word or idea over and over again . . . and you want to scream, “You know what, I get it!”
Redundancy screams “beginner writer.” It’s sad to say it rings ‘lack of experience.’ Redundant words or phrases are those that can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.
The use of qualifiers is acceptable with restraint and will let the reader know you are a polished writer. But using modifiers too often weakens your writing. In reality they add bulk without adding substance. For example: There are very many reasons we should be careful of the very long sentence. Take out the excessive qualifiers and write: There are many reasons we should be careful of long sentences.
Well, there you have it. A few things to consider when writing a story - so it screams polished writer instead of beginner.