Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2013 - On Writing Well–what does that mean?

    "Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next, and it's not a question of gimmicks . . . It's a question of using the English language in a way that will achieve the greatest clarity and strength." --William Zinsser/ON WRITING WELL

So, exactly what keeps a reader reading from one paragraph to the next? What is clarity? What is strength?  To be sure, these things have to do with writing an understandable sentence, but for that sentence to be understandable, it must, first of all, have clarity. Take a look at these two sentences:

    1) The door chimed as she entered the shop.

       2)  As she pushed the shop's door open, it grazed the bell-chimes mounted on the lintel.

    Which one of the above instantly provided you with an image in your mind? Answer: #2. Oh, you didn't see anything wrong with #1? Let's look at #1.
    First, the door is chiming. Doors are usually very solid items, so how could it make a sound other than to creak on its hinges? Logically, something else triggered the chime sound, right? But what? The reader is clueless. The reader did not instantly visualize how the "door chimed."
    Secondly, the cause-effect is reversed. How do I know this?  Because of the "red flag" warning word, which is "as." Nine times out of ten when "as" appears in a clause at the end of a sentence, that sentence has a reversed cause-effect sequence. What this means is that the person reading the sentence is forced for an instant to stop and adjust "the movie in their mind" so the passage makes logical sense. After all, isn't it logical that a woman would enter a shop through a door and then a chime might go off announcing the door's opening?
    Let's look at what happened in sentence #2: the cause-effect was logical and straightforward so, with clarity, the reader visualized what actually took place. No stopping or exiting the story world (
not even for a nanosecond) and thus the strength in sentence #2 keeps the reader reading.
    If you've looked at your work and found such "as"-reversed sentences, I'm inviting you to share one of your originals here and your revision to it in order to help others "see" what happened. And, if you want to ask me to comment, I'll give feedback (either here or privately). Just use use the comment feature below. This offer is good only for the month of January 2013.

@2013 by Catherine E. McLean *

FEBRUARY 2013's topic will be: "Simplicity"

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