Don’t write wimpy sentences.
People don’t read wimpy sentences. And if they do, they don’t absorb them. Weak sentences are overlooked, even when they’re meant to convey something important.
So, in the spirit of instant gratification, here are three easy fixes for some common sentence wimpifiers:
1. Passive Voice
Passive voice is boring. It’s the kind of writing that ends up getting skimmed over. It puts the focus on the wrong things, and sounds weak.
- Shit: The ball was being thrown by the two boys.
- Not shit: The two boys hurled the ball back and forth.
In the example using passive voice, the ball is the subject. It’s the focal point of that sentence, but why? Using a concise verb paints a picture the reader can visualize.
Here’s another example of a shitty sentence:
The volcano was erupting. (The volcano erupted./Lava gushed down the mountain./ Billows of pyroclastic death exploded from the mouth of the volcano. (Okay, maybe not that last one so much.) Dramatic events must be dramatic –not wimpy and passive.)
A quick and dirty rule of thumb is to look for the -ing words, and when possible, make them -ed words.
- Ugh: She picked up the letter that was on the table.
- Not ugh: She picked up the letter from the table.
Seriously –perform a quick ctrl+f and search your work for the word “that.” Highlight every instance.
Now, delete every single fucking instance of “that.”
that sentences flow better without it. Okay, I’ll admit –“that” does have its time and place, but if you can make a sentence coherent without it, leave it out.
3. Began To
People these days love instant gratification. We skim over blocks of text. We want books and blogs to have some added punch. An action starting with “began to” feels more like a feeble little slap.
- Rage: She began to run.
- Not rage: She ran.
And in case you’re not convinced:
In the middle of the quiet restaurant, the baby began to cry.
When his pants caught fire, Rob began to undress.
It started to rain.
I would love to see you rewrite these sentences to kick more ass, but if you want to add some spice to your current work, go ahead and use that nifty ctrl+f feature and look for these “began to” and “started to” phrases. In most cases, they can be rewritten as stronger, faster, better sentences.
And by all means, please send me the before and after!
What are some of your pet peeves when reading?