Watch for the Word Some in Your Story

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In my readings, I’ve noticed many unnecessary occurrences of the word some. I have to ferret out that sneaky word from my drafts. But I don’t delete all of them. Sometimes some is the correct word.

Where the word some works.

Example

> “Did you read all of the book?”

   “I read some of it.”

Although some works, it’s a vague word here. If how much of the book read is important to the story, a more specific word is better.

Suppose the person asking is a contest organizer talking to a procrastinating judge. The organizer will want to know how many pages out of the total number of pages the judge has read. The judge would know that’s what the organizer is seeking.

But suppose the person asking is a mother talking to a teen who needs to complete a book report. Some would be appropriate for an evading teen. The next dialogue statement from the mother might be:

“Exactly how many pages have you read?”

Where some doesn’t work well.

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Example

> Daryl grabbed his phone and tapped in some numbers.

Some isn’t necessary.

< Daryl grabbed his phone and tapped in numbers.

This is more concise and punchier.

Example

> I wish you’d write some more tips on your blog.

Does the speaker want the blogger to write more tips, or does the speaker wish to limit the number to a few more tips. Probably the former. Some isn’t necessary.

< I wish you’d write more tips on your blog.

Example

> Jerry poked some ruffles on her sleeve.

This sounds like Jerry singled out particular ruffles to poke.

< He poked the ruffles on her sleeve.

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Example

< They played some tennis before getting ready for dinner.

Some is unnecessary or, if necessary, is imprecise.

> We played tennis before getting ready for dinner.

We played two sets of tennis before getting ready for dinner.

Example

> She’d softened her attitude some toward him and given him hope.

Some used for degrees is vague and doesn’t add to the meaning of this sentence. It causes wordiness. The word softened already assumes a degree compared to changed her attitude.

< She’d softened her attitude toward him and given him hope.

Example

> We have some exciting news, girls. You’re going to have a brother.

This sounds like the parents have only a part of the exciting new that they could have. Remove some, and the excitement of the statement rises.

We have exciting news, girls. You’re going to have a brother.

As in the last example, some becomes a weasel word, sucking the life out of adjacent words. Some sucked the life out of exciting.

Watch for the word some; it can be vague and unnecessary. Click to tweet.

What are other vague, unnecessary words?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

10 Fixes to Edit Unclear and Wordy Sentences

“Telling me to ‘Be clear’ is like telling me to ‘Hit the ball squarely.’ I know that. What I don’t know is how to do it.” —Joseph M. Williams

image by weinstock
image by weinstock

First, lets look at an unclear, wordy passage.

image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

Grayson said he’d made a decision not to return to their relationship due to the fact that Ella was unable to change.1  Hadn’t he seen her establishment of a different approach to her behavior over the last year? 2  She’d made great improvement in the area of dealing with life’s problems. 3

 

Under the circumstance in which Dr. Peters came to town, Ella’s hope was ignited by him. 4 It was her belief that Grayson wasn’t aware of the root of her poor attitude, but Dr. Peters was. 5 Through the patient inquiry method therapy, he showed her how her upbringing had an impact on the way she perceived and reacted to her environment. 6 He really helped her rise above her past injuries and learn new ways of how to respond to her fears. 7 

Second, lets consider fixes for clearness and conciseness – sentence by sentence. (All 10 fixes are mentioned – a few, multiple times. Fixes are in parentheses.)

Sentence 1.

  • Watch for the verb make: make a decision (decided); made use of (used); made a correction (corrected).
  • Avoid wordy phrases: Due to the fact that. (because) Was unable to. (could)

Sentence 2.

  • Avoid changing verbs into nouns, especially adding –tion was in need of an estimation, instead of needed to estimate. In our example, we had establishment of a different approach (rewrite with strong verbs)

Sentence 3.

  • Watch for the word make: made great improvement (improved).
  • Avoid vague, encompassing noun phrases: in the area of dealing with (remove the unnecessary phrase the area of.)

Sentence 4.

  • Avoid wordy phrases: Under the circumstance in which (when)
  • Use active voice. Watch for the word by. Her hope was ignited by him (he ignited her hope)

Sentence 5.

  • Limit it is, there is, and there are: It was her belief that (in the example, the phrase was unnecessary)
  • Avoid wordy phrases: Wasn’t aware of (didn’t understand; or didn’t realize)

Sentence 6.

  • Avoid strings of nouns: patient inquiry method therapy (through asking probing questions)
  • Avoid inflated words: an impact on (affect) (more examples: facilitate (help); cognizant of (know))

Sentence 7.

  • Delete weasel words: really helped (helped) (more examples: very unique; quite nice)
  • Avoid unnecessary prepositional phrases: of how to respond to her fears (to face her fears) (See post about reducing of.)

Finally, lets look at a possible rewrite.

image by geralt
image by geralt

Grayson refused to reconcile their relationship, because he believed Ella could never change. What did he think she’d been tackling this past year? She’d turned her life around.

When Dr. Peters came to town, he ignited Ella’s hope. Grayson misunderstood the root of her poor attitude, but Dr. Peters recognized the source. Through asking probing questions, he revealed how her upbringing had affected the way she perceived and reacted to her environment. Over time, he helped her forgive old injuries and learn new ways to face her fears.

10 Ways to improve wordy & unclear sentences. Click to tweet.

Which tip will improve your sentences?

A 50-Item Checklist You Won’t Want to Leave Your Scene Without

“Scenes are capsules in which compelling characters undertake significant actions in a vivid and memorable way that allows the events to feel as though they are happening in real time.”

—Jordan E. Rosenfeld (Make a Scene)

checklist  

Scene Checklist

Purpose

[  ] Has 3 reasons the scene should exist. Possibilities:

  • Progresses or changes character’s goal
  • Moves plot forward
  • Adds conflict between opposing characters
  • Introduces a character
  • Develops a character
  • Foreshadows
  • Raises stakes

Structure

[  ] Clear beginning, middle, climax (disaster), and end. 

[  ] Opening hook – lines that grab reader.

[  ] Opens mid action – not description or explanation.

[  ] Action scenes – goal->conflict->disaster. 1

[  ] Reaction scene – response->dilemma->decision. 1

[  ] Point of view (POV) character – character with the most to lose in the scene – reveal immediately.

[  ] Reader immediately grounded in who, what, where, when, why.

[  ] Setting – revealed through what POV character reacts to, sees, hears, does.

[  ] Something’s at stake, or story stakes are raised or reinforced – make situation worse, or stakes matter more.

[  ] Fear hovers – character might not meet her scene goal.

[  ] Actions –interesting; advance plot or exhibit character; performed in real time. 

[  ] Pace – appropriate for what’s happening.

[  ] Mood, tone, or author’s voice – realistic for scene, and the book’s genre.

[  ] Obstacles – people, events, emotions, secrets get in the way of characters meeting their goals.

[  ] Climax (disaster) – relevant to the plot or characterization.

[  ] Element of suspense, surprise, twist, or foreshadowing – creates anticipation; delivers a worthy payoff relevant to plot or characterization.

[  ] Metaphor or symbol.

[  ] Ending hook – transitions to next scene; entices reader to read on.

Hero/Heroine

[  ] Clear wants, emotional and physical – drive actions, dialogue, thoughts.

[  ] Pushes away from something negative; pulls toward something positive (emotional or physical). 1

[  ] A hint of victory; two hints of failure. 1

[  ] Conflicting values.

[  ] Reader can identify or empathize; knows whom to root for.

[  ] Secondary characters – clear purpose for being in scene.

[  ] Hints of wounds, fears. Or competencies.

[  ] Reactions shown – to stimuli that affect feelings.

[  ] Balanced emotion, dialogue, internalization (considering scene type).

[  ] 5 senses included – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.

Dialogue

[  ] Tight, every word needed.

[  ] Interesting; moves scene forward.

[  ] Natural – leaves out boring parts of actual dialogue.

[  ] Characters’ voices – distinctive; could know speaker by his word choices.

[  ] Reveals or hints at emotions, undercurrents, or secrets.

[  ] Reveals character, plot, conflicts, or bits of important information.

[  ] Includes a zinger – jibe, bold truth, dry or humorous comment. 1

[  ] Action beats or simple speaker attributes (said) – identifies speaker.

Avoid

[  ] Clichés – in dialogue, characterization, plot.

[  ] Coincidences (something drops in to save the day).

[  ] Vagueness (it, that, pronouns that don’t tie, etc.).

[  ] Clever writing that adds nothing; confuses.

Remove

[  ] Boring, purposeless sentences and paragraphs.

[  ] Detailed body movement descriptions.

[  ] Unnecessary explanations.

[  ] Weasel words – except when they work in dialogue.

Style

[  ] Shows often; tells as needed.

[  ] Clear, concise, uncomplicated sentences.

[  ] Correct words (dictionary and thesaurus).

[  ] Power noun, verbs.

[  ] Short narratives when necessary (getting from one place to another).

[  ] Active voice – limit “was.”

[  ] Positive form used when possible.

[  ] Backload – ending words (sentence and paragraph) that tie to passage’s meaning.

Idea from Susan May Warren’s MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat manual.

Transform your scene with this comprehensive checklist. Click to tweet.

What would you add to this checklist?