Can you improve the sentence below? Scroll to the bottom of today’s post for the answer.
The tiny winsome kitten captured our hearts.
Today’s post is about the Amish – a Christian religious group that strives to separate itself from mainstream society. The Amish dress in black and don’t use cars or electrical appliances. Many Amish families still own family farms.
Amish communities are popular vacation spots for American tourists. Amish bicycles and horse-driven buggies are a welcome escape from the stress and materialism that dominate our American lifestyles.
I just wrote that paragraph myself. And here’s what I want to say about it: it’s boring.
Americans are materialistic. The Amish aren’t. You knew that already! There was no point in even saying that.
I would define good writing as telling your readers something they didn’t know – finding a different angle, for example. Today I have an example for you. It’s from a 2020 Washington Post article, and here’s a paragraph that impressed me:
An Amish family wanted to run propane gas pipes for lights to every room of their home instead of running them only to the kitchen and living room. (The Amish choose not to tap the electrical grid.) Church members discussed how the change would affect the family. If the family members could separate into bedrooms to read at night, instead of gathering in the living room, would their ties fray? Of course they would.
The Amish said no to the additional gas lights – but not because they’re against materialism. That’s a big, empty, meaningless word. What the Amish worry about are the ways that modern devices can weaken family ties, friendships, and communities.
Here’s another example. An Amish farmer wanted to buy a machine that could bale hay. The Amish use modern machinery all the time. The hay baler would save a lot of time and energy. That’s a no-brainer, right?
But the community leaders talked it over and – again – said no. If farm labor became easier, Amish farmers wouldn’t have to depend on each other as much. That would weaken community ties.
Feeling guilty about materialism is (in my opinion, anyway) – stupid. Of course we’re materialists. We have to eat, we need comfortable places to live, and cell phones can be lifesaving in emergencies. (Many Amish families have cell phones.) We need material things – lots of them.
The real question is whether our material things are contributing to the kind of life we want to lead – a point the article drives home perfectly. That’s good writing, in my opinion!
Always – always – strive to make a point your readers aren’t expecting – and tell a story or two if you can. (If you’re looking for the secrets of good writing, I’ve just given you two of them!)
Often you need a comma when a sentence has two adjectives:
The tiny, winsome kitten captured our hearts. BETTER
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