Self-Editing Awkward Sentences

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Even though I write blog posts about writing, I make the mistakes I blog about. One problem my editors have noted is awkward sentences.

In editing the sentences, I’ve learned

  • ways a writer might find these sentences,
  • what can cause awkward sentences,
  • and that sometimes the awkwardness is subtle and the writer can’t see or hear it.

Find Awkward Sentences During Self-Editing

1. Listen to an automated reader read your chapters. For me, the automated reader’s expressionless voice makes strange wording jump out.

2. Let your chapter sit for a while. After I let mine sit for at least two weeks, I become more like a reader. The sentences are less familiar to me, and I can spot awkward constructions.

3. Find a good critique group or partner. No matter how often I go through my chapter, I’ll have a sentence that will appear awkward to others. My critique partner will usually mark the sentence(s).

4. Hire an editor within your means. When I was in a situation in which I knew a professional editor wouldn’t be available, I hired one.

Causes of Awkward Sentences

image by rkit

1.The writer tries to express too much in one sentence. Break the sentence into two or more sentences and tighten them.


Jim’s floor plan sounded acceptable, so he’d go with Jim to see his house, and if the place measured up to what Jim described, maybe he’d make him an offer if he felt he didn’t need an agent.


Jim’s floor plan sounded acceptable, so he’d go with Jim to see his house. If the place measured up to what Jim described, he might make an offer without involving an agent.

2. The second half of a sentence doesn’t follow from the first.


He was going crazy, but his mother liked Elsie’s friendliness.


Elsie’s constant chatter drove him crazy, but his mother liked the girl’s friendliness.

3. A phrase doesn’t represent the best description of an action. Restate the sentence using a concrete verb.


She approached Jacob without looking at the creep.

(Without looking at was a phrase I used that an editor marked as awkward. I don’t think I’d have recognized its awkwardness without someone’s help.)


As she approached Jacob, she looked away from the creep. (Context lets us know Jacob is the creep)

4. Necessary information is omitted. Spell out everything that needs to be said.


At his rate of offers, her blood pressure might register normal by the end of the day.


Thanks to all his offers to help her, her blood pressure might register normal by the end of the day.

5. Unnecessary information is included. Remove words that confuse the meaning of a sentence.


The other houses looked the same with their fenced cow pastures and harvested cornfields groomed behind them.


The other houses looked the same with their fenced cow pastures and harvested cornfields behind them.

Ways to find and fix awkward sentences. Click to tweet.

What methods do you use to edit your work?

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Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond, Virginia. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, star football player and prom king Trigg Alderman, is in Twisty Creek visiting his grandmother who lives next door. He doesn’t recognize Candace at first and remembers little about her. He’s not alone. 

Candace’s rekindled attraction to Trigg adds unexpected complications to finding her passions. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!


Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?


Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!


Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?


Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…


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2 thoughts on “Self-Editing Awkward Sentences

  1. I use the same methods, as well as reading it out loud. You naturally say it the way it should be, rather than what is there. Optimal is having someone else read it out loud to you. Then you hear everything awkward.

    1. I agree, Jane, if you can find someone with the time to read it to you, you also have two sets of eyes and ears on the flubs.


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