Monday, April 19, 2010

Two Words that Effective Writers Avoid

There is a scourge afflicting even the best writers among us.  There is no excuse for it.  There is, however, a cure.

Okay, let me try that again.

A scourge afflicts even the best writers among us. Forget  making excuses; find the simple cure instead.

Do you see it yet?  

Stated simply, avoid starting your sentences with there is.  Don’t bury your message under a layer of vagueness. 


In paragraph one, above, the word there has no substance, no body, no real meaning.  And the verb to be in all its many forms is necessary (see?)  to the smooth running of the English language, but it shouldn’t be (see, again?) the go-to verb that jumps up every time you’re feeling too lazy to search for a more effective one.

Notice how Version Two displays a directness that Version One lacks.  The noun scourge jumpstarts the sentence.  The verb afflicts propels it along.

A fiction writer friend once reported to me that an editor told her: any story that starts with “It was…”  or “There was…” immediately loses points.  You want to grab the reader’s attention, not slide gingerly across the page.

So, if you want to improve your prose, try stretching your writing muscles. Avoid starting your sentences with wimpy there is,  and, instead, seek out concrete nouns and active verbs - words that work.

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