Dina Friedman's Monthly Writing Advice
Vol. 1 # 3, August 2001 - Revision on the Sentence Level
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Revising on the Sentence Level
Our last writing tip addressed big-picture revision. Now it's time to
pay attention to the way you're getting your ideas across. Here are a
few tips for getting your language to shine:
(1) Look for words that can be cut. See if you can reduce an idea
expressed in several words to one or two.
Example: Change "I couldn't go skiing due to the fact that I had a
cold" to "I couldn't go skiing because I had a cold."
(2) Find and evaluate vague pronouns. "This," "that," and "it" are
particularly notorious offenders. It's often better to rename your
subject or use a synonym.
Example: I am against nuclear power. This is bad for the
environment." could be revised to "The radiation caused by nuclear
power plants is bad for the environment." In other words, if you ask
yourself what each "this" represents, you will end up with stronger,
There are many more tricks you can use to improve the way you use
language. A little secret: as you practice finding wordy
constructions and vague pronoun references, while revising, you'll
soon recognize some of these mistakes as you go, and your language
will get stronger on its own.
NB: Apologies for missing the July installment. Family vacations got
in the way. Happy summer to all!
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Dina Friedman, M.S.W., has worked with
individuals and groups on issues for thirteen years. A
published fiction writer, poet, playwright, and journalist
and winner of several awards and honors, she coordinates
academic writing workshops for Mount Holyoke College. She
has taught rhetoric, English Comp, and creative writing at
the University of Massachusetts, Holyoke Community College,
and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
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