9 Paragraph Problems Begging to Be Reworded

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“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

 See the end of this post for more information.

If a paragraph doesn’t seem to read quite right, look for the following problems.

1.  Confusing Sentences in a Confusing Order

Changing jobs would solve my problem. I hated my job and its long hours. Especially my slave-driver boss, who always found another task for me to complete before heading home. 

Better:

I hated my job and its long hours. My slave-driver boss always found another task for me to complete before I headed home. I needed to find a new job.

2. There was/It was

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There was much to do on the farm. I never had time to go out with friends or take a girl to the movies. It was frustrating and made me angry.

Better:

Farm chores ate up most of my time. I couldn’t go out with friends or take a girl to the movies. I became frustrated and angry.

3.  Phrases out of Order

I shut down my laptop, filled a box with all my belongings, and left my resignation letter on the boss’s desk at the end of the day.

Better:

At the end of the day, I shut down my laptop, filled a box with all my belongings, and left my resignation letter on the boss’s desk.

4.  Weak Pronoun Ending a Paragraph

My husband burned my favorite pot, our dog ran away with a poodle, and my son brought home a report card with straight Ds. I didn’t know how to deal with it.

Better:

My husband burned my favorite pot, our dog ran away with a poodle, and my son brought home a report card with straight Ds. I didn’t know how to deal with the catastrophes.

5.  Wrong Word Used

The bell rang, and the students scattered into their classrooms.

Better:

The bell rang, and the students funneled into their classrooms.

6.  Repeated Words

Because there was an APB issued, there must be enough policemen there to handle the pursuit.

Better:

Because an APB was issued, enough policemen must have arrived in the area to handle the pursuit.

7.  Speaker Attribute Too Distanced from the Beginning

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“If I’d started the day earlier, I could have completed all my housework, done the shopping, helped the kids with their homework, and then killed my husband,” Jean said.

Better:

“If I’d started the day earlier,” Jean said, “I could have completed all my housework, done the shopping, helped the kids with their homework, and then killed my husband.”

8. Unnecessary Explaining

After paying the bribe, I was low on cash. For Mom’s birthday, I gave her a ring I bought at a pawn shop. She loves jewelry. Ever since she was a young girl, she spent her allowance on jewelry. She even bought me earrings for my sixth birthday. If she learned the source of my purchase, she’d throw the ring back in my face.

Better:

After paying the bribe, I was low on cash. For Mom’s birthday, I gave her a ring I bought at a pawn shop. She loves jewelry, but if she learned the source of my purchase, she’d throw the ring back in my face.

 9. Informal People Never Using Contractions

Sherry would not forget Dan’s blunder. “You are not my kind of person anymore, Jack. I will tell the gang to snub you.” If only she had not met the creep.

Better:

Sherry wouldn’t forget Dan’s blunder. “You aren’t my kind of person anymore, Jack. I’ll tell the gang to snub you.” If only she hadn’t met the creep.

What paragraph problem do you usually catch when you edit?

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End Paragraphs With a Meaningful Punch

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“Your goal is to entice your reader to read the next paragraph. The worst way for your reader to leave each paragraph is reading a vague word, such as his, it, with, there, or was. These words leave the reader with no gist of the paragraph’s meaning or how he should feel as he starts the next paragraph. A paragraph backloaded with an evocative word excites readers subconsciously to move forward in the story.” Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days by Zoe M. McCarthy (releasing in 2018)

See if you can revise and end the example paragraphs with a meaningful word.

Paragraphs With Weak Endings 

1. Jack was never home. Liza’s friends had their own lives. They couldn’t babysit her every day of the week. Jack needed to find another job, one in which he could be with her.

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2. Graham entered Grandmother’s dark room. Why hadn’t Daisy opened the curtains this morning? He took several steps closer to the bed. Grandmother lay on her back with her hands folded over her chest. Her face looked gray. Oh heavens. Death had come for Grandmother, and she no longer was.

3. Mona spied Aunt Saundra’s emerald ring on the table. The diamonds surrounding the emerald sparkled in the sunlight shining through the window. If she scooped the ring into her purse, and only wore it in the city, no one would ever know she took it.

4. Cecelia abhorred gardening. Oh, she enjoyed the beauty of the flowerbeds and the arrangements of cut flowers in vases inside. But the sun drilling into her back, the sweat pouring from her body, and the blisters on her hands were too much to ask.

The Gist of the Paragraphs

Paragraph 1 is about Liza being left alone. Her leaves us dry.

Paragraph 2 is about discovering Grandmother’s death. Was means existing.

Paragraph 3 is about Mona’s stealing. We’re sent away with boring it.

Paragraph 4 is about Cecelia’s belief that gardening benefits aren’t worth the pains. Ask suggests a question.

Improved Backloaded Paragraphs

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1. Jack was never home. Liza’s friends had their own lives. They couldn’t babysit her every day of the week. Jack needed to find another job whose evening and weekend requirements never left her alone.

2. Graham entered Grandmother’s dark room. Why hadn’t Daisy opened the curtains this morning? He took several steps closer to the bed. Grandmother lay on her back with her hands folded over her chest. Her face looked gray. Oh heavens. Grandmother was dead.

3. Mona spied Aunt Saundra’s ring on the table. The diamonds surrounding the emerald sparkled in the sunlight shining through the window. If she scooped the ring into her purse and wore it only in the city, no one would ever know she was the thief.

4. Cecelia abhorred gardening. Oh, she enjoyed the beauty of the flowerbeds and the arrangements of cut flowers in vases inside. But she hated the sun drilling into her back, the sweat pouring from her body, and the blisters on her hands. The beauty wasn’t worth the suffering.

An exercise to end paragraphs with words that lure readers to the next paragraph. Click to tweet.

I invite you to include your ending words in the comments.