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Re: Be a Better Writer--SO MANY WRITING TIPS

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:31 am
by swfdoc1
Jan, I hope you don’t mind my jumping in.

The issue you are addressing is called “elegant variation.” It is one of the mysteries of pseudo-experts’ advice as to how this phenomenon came to be considered a good thing. As this (trustworthy, believe it or not) Wikipedia article explains, “elegant variation” was originally a term of derision—and still ought to be.

I taught legal writing for 10 years, and you will note that elegant variation is ESPECIALLY to be avoided in legal writing, among several types of writing. Nonetheless, it is a bane to ALL writing.

Re: Be a Better Writer--SO MANY WRITING TIPS

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:11 am
by glorybee
Of course I don't mind!

I'd never heard the phrase "elegant variation," but it's a familiar concept. It shows up in the writings of high school students who have discovered the 'thesaurus' feature of their word processor. Only it gets a bit ridiculous with them, because they'll just choose words at random, without awareness of those words' connotation. I've read some pretty bizarre sentences due to that thesaurus button.

Re: Be a Better Writer--SO MANY WRITING TIPS

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 8:25 pm
by oursilverstrands
Jan, this little tip comes from my own experience. Sorry that I went over the count by one word.

Inspiration is impatient. When it comes be ready with paper and pen, or it moves on.

I've been known to jot down a thought I didn't want to forget while driving in traffic. Not
recommended, though.


Re: Be a Better Writer--SO MANY WRITING TIPS

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:47 pm
by rcthebanditqueen
Ooh, a wonderful thread! One for the bookmarks. Or the "various tidbits written on post-it notes and stuck like a fleet of butterflies all around my house" :mrgreen:
glorybee wrote:• Strike ‘to be’ verbs from sentences to force active verb use that transforms your work. (FaithWriter Sydney Avey)
Ok. I know my grammar, but I'm mentally thrashed from work. I can has example? I tried Google, but didn't get anywhere...
glorybee wrote:• Write, write, write. You can edit later. (FaithWriter Helen Paynter)
In the same vein, Gracelikerain (sorry, I don't know your real name!) posted on a thread of mine and passed on a quote she heard:

"You can always fix bad. You can't fix blank."
glorybee wrote:• Cut out all exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
I don't understand this one. (Thinking fiction writing here.) Does it mean in prose? Or in dialogue as well? That would seem odd. It seems like exclamation points can be one way to show (vs. tell) the speaker's attitude, tone, etc. *waits anxiously for input*

Re: Be a Better Writer--SO MANY WRITING TIPS

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:01 pm
by glorybee
Here's a list of "to be" verbs in English: am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been

Often, sentences with "to be" verbs can have a greater punch if re-written.

Jan was eating a brownie.
Jan snarfed down a brownie.

The writers were going to a conference.
The writers flew to a conference.

I am walking toward the doctor's office with dread.
I trudge toward the doctor's office.

As for the exclamation points--when I edit, I delete 95% of the ones I encounter. In non-fiction and in narratives, they are almost never necessary; they mark one's writing as overly youthful. In dialogue, they're acceptable, but they should not be over-used--they should be reserved for moments of extreme emotion.

As writers, we should want our words (or our characters' words) to indicate emotion, not our punctuation.