Bad, better, best — how to instantly transform your sentences



The way you structure your sentences is important. Many people add in unnecessary words which way down their prose and obscure the meaning. Ensure you use cut down the flab in your writing so your prose is strong.


Here are common words in sentence which can be cut

That

Worst: “I wish that I could sing.”

Better: “I wish I could sing.”

This sentence is better because the meaning of the sentence isn't changed by removing the "that".

Really

Worst: The building was really tall.

Better: The building was tall.

Best: The building towered over its surroundings.

This sentence is the best because it shows rather than tells.


Very

Worst: He was very angry at the cashier.

Better: He was angry at the cashier.

Even better: He was furious at the cashier.

Best: He slammed his hand down on the counter.

The second last sentence is better because "furious" is a stronger adjective than "angry". The last sentence is the best because it transforms the sentence; instead of telling the reader about the action it shows the reader.


Almost as if

Worst: She looked almost as if she were going to laugh.

Better: She looked like she would laugh. Best: She blinked back tears of laughter.

Using the phrase "almost as if" obscures the meaning for the reader; as you can see, the meaning of the sentence doesn't change when the phrase is omitted. The last sentence is the best example because it transforms the sentence from passive observation to action.


Is

Worst: A new tyre is necessary for the car.

Better: The car needs a new tyre.

This is the better sentence because it puts the object of the sentence (the car) first.


Seem

Worst: Jed seemed peaceful. Better: Jed looked peaceful. Best: A serene expression rested on Jed's face.

"Seem" makes the meaning open to the reader's interpretation. It should only be used in places where you want the meaning to the reader be vague or unclear.


A lot

Worst: Harry saw a lot of people on the bus.

Better: Harry saw many people on the bus.

Best: Over fifty people were crammed into the bus.

Removing "a lot" from the sentence doesn't change the meaning. It is also vague; saying fifty is more specific than "a lot".


Was

Worst: She was exercising to the beat of the music.

Better: She exercised to the beat of the music.

OR

Worst: He was running away.

Better: He ran away.

Writers often couple “was” with an –ing word. The solution is simple: Change the verb form and eliminate “was.”

Started/began

Worst: He started screaming. Better: He screamed.

OR

Worst: She began speaking.

Better: She spoke.

There isn't any point putting the word "started" or "began" in your prose; it's redundant, because by time the reader has read the word, the character isn't "starting" anything it's already happening. Likewise with using the word "was", changing the verb form can eliminate the extra word.


Here are some more words to look out for


Starting a sentence with: There is, There are, or There were

There is a dark forest in Avendale where a Witch lives.

The Witch lives in a dark forest in Avendale.


Which

He touched the petals which were soft.

The petals were soft to touch.


Prepositional phrases: of the, to the, on the, in the

Ten of the soldiers wanted to go south.

Ten soldier wanted to go south.


Just

He just wanted to go home.

He wanted to go home.


Literally

The ground literally fell under their feet.

The ground fell under their feet.


Basically

The gown was basically all black, aside from the white lace trimmings.

The gown was black with white lace trimmings.


Additionally

She additionally added corn to the trolly.

She added corn to the trolly.

She tossed an ear of corn into the trolly.


In addition to

In addition to her tears, she felt herself shake.

As tears poured down her cheeks, she felt herself shake.


Could

He could feel himself smiling.

He felt himself smile.

The corners of his mouth curved upwards.


Like (or the phrase "it was like")

It was like someone had punched him in the gut.

The words hurt like a punch to the gut.

His stomach lurched; the words hurt.

About Me

I love everything about books: reading, reviewing, analysing, and writing. I also love adventures.

 

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