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, clearer prose

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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