Can you find both mistakes in the sentence below? Scroll to the bottom of today’s post for the answer.
Jerry’s boss is the red haired women standing near the bay window.
If you want to be a successful author, you need to write powerful sentences. Today I’m going to offer a simple strategy for writing sentences that move. Here it is: strip away words that slow down the sentence.
Below is a list of heavy, plodding words that tend to sneak into sentences. You think you’re building power when you use them, but often the opposite happens: your sentence slows down.
Here’s the list: all at once, began to, eventually, immediately, just then, might, proceeded to, started to, suddenly, then
Please note that I’m not warning you against using them. (I sometimes use them myself!) What I’m asking is that you stop and think first. Read the sentence both ways – with the questionable word or expression, and then without it. Which version sounds better? And are there other changes you can make?
Taking that extra step immediately sets you apart for the average writer. Try it!
Here are some examples:
He saw Janey and proceeded to scoop her up in his arms.
The moment he saw Janey, he scooped her up in his arms. BETTER
The dog ran to the door, barking furiously. Then Susan heard banging.
The dog ran to the door, barking furiously. Susan heard banging. BETTER
As she fumbled with the doorknob, the packages tumbled from her arms all at once.
As she fumbled with the doorknob, the packages tumbled from her arms. BETTER
Instant Quiz ANSWER
First, be careful not to confuse woman (singular) and women (plural). Jerry’s boss is a woman. (You’d be surprised how often I see this woman/women mistake!)
Second, Jerry’s boss is not a red woman or a haired woman. She’s a red-haired woman. You need a hyphen. (You can learn more about hyphens by clicking here.)
Jerry’s boss is the red-haired woman standing near the bay window. CORRECT
Jean Reynolds’ book What Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You can be purchased from Amazon.com and other online booksellers.
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