3 Small Fixes That Will Give Power to Your Paragraphs

“Make every word count.”  — Sol Stein.

 

powerarm.jpgDo you wonder why your sentences seem to lack the power of those of other authors?

Here’s three editing fixes that will add power to your paragraphs.

Let’s say you wrote:

oldphone.jpgShe detested and disliked telephone callers asking for money for this and for that. They always asked if she could find it in her heart to give twenty dollars. She gave literally thousands to charities that were important too. She couldn’t fix every problem in the world. She’d ask the next pushy, fast-talking caller to give twenty dollars to each of the charities she gave to. And, she wouldn’t answer the phone again anytime soon.

Power to Your Paragraphs!

1.   Reduce repetitions of the same word, especially at the beginning of sentences.

Notice that “She” opened five of the six sentences. Mix up the opening words to add interest.

file0001658617775.jpgThe writer wrote three forms of “ask” and four forms of “give.” Boring words to repeat. Avoid overusing less common words or phrases as well, such as the two occurrences of “twenty dollars.” They’re more noticeable, so look for synonyms. If you need help, consult your thesaurus.

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  • Replace repetitions of words with fresh ones and liven up your paragraphs.
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 2.  Cut unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.

“Literally” is unnecessary. file000444162833.jpgRemoving it puts more emphasis on “thousands.” She gave thousands.

If you’ve used two adjectives to describe a noun, choose the one that best describes the noun. Especially if the adjectives are close in meaning. 

Note “pushy” and “talkative” describing the same noun? I like “pushy.” Selecting one adjective allows the reader to picture the caller. Adding another one near it jars the reader to stop and reevaluate his image.

When I like both my adjectives, I choose one and then work the other in elsewhere in the paragraph. For example in the second sentence, “Fast-talking salespeople” could have replaced “They.”

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  • For smoother reading, cut nonessential adverbs and adjectives from sentences.
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3. file0001343372729.jpg End sentences with power words. I blogged about backloading sentences and paragraphs in an earlier post. The weak ending words, “to” and “too,” leave the reader with no gist of the sentence. Marginally better are “that” and “soon.”

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  • Where possible, reword sentences to end with meaningful words.
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Here’s how I rewrote the paragraph.

She detested pushy callers hounding her for money for good causes. The pitch was always: Couldn’t she find it in her heart to give twenty dollars to this or that relief? Humph. Weren’t the organizations she already donated thousands to equally important? How much of the world could her fixed income fix? She’d suggest the next fast-talking caller contribute twenty bucks to each of her charities. Better yet, she’d stop answering the phone.

 

Instead of naming the character’s feeling, “detested,” I could’ve shown the character’s emotion with actions or inner thoughts. This would be in line with deep point of view.

What quick fixes do you recommend to make sentences appeal to readers?

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer or Artist—Comfortably?

“The artist finds a greater pleasure in painting than in having completed the picture.” — Lucius Seneca.

 

by veggiegretz
by veggiegretz

Do you dream of people buying your art masterpieces or reading your bestseller or attending your sold-out performance? Or do you picture the Most Creative Teacher of the Year Award resting on your mantle?

You’ve purchased the beret and the smock or the getup of your craft. You look marvelous. Then it comes time to study the craft. You realize it encompasses so much than you thought. Maybe God hasn’t called you to the craft.

Don’t get discouraged. Your desire may need to mature a bit. It did for me.

You’ll know you’re on the right track: 

  1. When you connect to everything you do through the perspective of your craft.
by vilhelm
by vilhelm

I’m a writer. My husband looks at the price and functionality in buying a tractor for our garden. I look at its seat and visualize my grandsons riding on Grandpa’s lap. I imagine their smiles and excitement. I picture them telling their children stories about Grandpa taking them for tractor rides. I see everything through story.

An artist told me her artist’s eye never shuts down. While she reads a novel, she sees paintings.

A creative preschool teacher looks at a toilet paper roll and pictures hundreds of uses for it as a craft or a learning tool.

  1. When you care less and less about fame-filled success.
kconnors
kconnors

I want my novels to sell, yes, but am I seeking fame as a bestselling author? No. I just want to write stories that will touch others as the stories have touched me. Through my relationship with God, I believe this is where I should be.

Two artists told me how the economy has made it tough for them. For one, it’s few people signing up for her art classes. For the other, it’s few sales. In their success slumps, did they quit offering art classes or stop painting? No.

  1. When you jump on opportunities to learn something new about your craft.
Pobello
Pobello

You actually practice what you learn from conferences and workshops you attend. Your bookshelf lined with books on your craft has expanded to two shelves. And you’ve read the books.

You spend time perusing the works of your betters, soaking in how they create something marvelous. You no longer care about looking marvelous.

Tweetables

  • Call yourself a writer or an artist when you view the world through your craft’s perspective.
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  • Call yourself a writer or an artist when you care more about the craft than the fame.
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  • Call yourself a writer or an artist when you dig deep into learning your craft.
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What made you comfortable to call yourself a writer or artist?

How to Entice Your Readers to Read the Next Sentence…and the Next

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”  — Albert Einstein

skunkbackload.jpgDo many of your sentences and paragraphs end with words, such as “his,” “it,” “with,” or “was”? If yes, you’ve left your reader with a dull word. It gives him little motivation to move on to the next sentence.

This doesn’t mean your reader won’t read on, but wouldn’t you like to entice your reader into reading your next sentence?

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  • Entice your reader to read on by ending each sentence with a power word. 
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A power word:

  • Is tied to the meaning of a sentence or paragraph.
  • Leaves the reader with what you want him to feel.
  • Leads the reader to the next sentence.

file0001338460061.jpgExample 1:

Unloaded

Barbara clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to rile a man who carried a rifle under his arm and a hunting knife strapped to his leg.

Backloaded:

Barbara clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to rile a man armed with a rifle and a hunting knife with a twelve-inch blade.

The first version leaves the reader with the man’s leg. If the sentence was about his wounded leg, “leg” might be appropriate to backload. But it’s about Barbara’s fear of his dangerous look. A knife scares me more than a rifle does. And the blade of a big knife is even scarier. So, I chose blade over leg, rifle, or knife.

Example 2:

Unloaded:

He was still dead, no matter how long she stared at him.

Backloaded:

No matter how long she stared at him, he was still dead.

The first sentence leaves the reader with a boring pronoun. “Him” tells us nothing about the sentence. The second version’s “dead” gives us the finality of the situation. Hopefully, the reader will want to know what she’s going to do now.

file00063104814.jpgExample 3:

Backloaded (first this time):

“She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on the piles. This was all Jason’s fault. Jason needed space? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with a waist the size of his muscular neck.” (From Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy)

See how each last word tells something about the heroine, Cisney, or her ex-boyfriend, Jason?

  • “Piles” points to Cisney’s disordered desk and life.
  • “Fault” points to how she feels about Jason in her predicament.
  • “Space” points to the excuse of someone who’s at fault.
  • “Muscular neck” leaves the reader with the feeling of a powerful person hurting vulnerable Cisney. Hopefully, the reader will want to know what Nick, who’s on his way to her office, is like in contrast.

Suppose I’d written the paragraph this way:

She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on it. The fault was Jason’s. Space was what Jason wanted? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with the small waist.

“It,” “Jason’s,” “wanted,” and “waist” don’t link to Cisney’s life, how she’s feeling, or anything about Jason.

Tweetable

  • End each sentence with a power word, leaving the reader with a sense of its message.
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How might using backloading improve a sentence in your work?