We all know when we read something terrible. The less literarily inclined will likely not understand what it is about the thing they’re reading which is making it bad, they just know it is. Even some who read often, or have written books, will not understand what it is that’s subtly making the work they’re reading, or writing, horrid.
It feels strange for my work to continue making leaps and bounds. Every time I feel like I’ve gotten to an acceptable level, I’ll write something new, then look back, and realize how awful the last work was. It’s confusing. How could I think something is good, then three months later realize how bad it is?
I digress, for a bit of a purpose. I’ve recently realized I use many words in my writing which slows down the read, makes it clunky, and all around… bleh. We’ll start with the number one offender.
If you can imagine, I scanned for the word “that” just before I typed the headline. I, in fact, stopped dead in the last paragraph as I typed out “tha” in place of the word “which”. Then I hit “cmnd+f” and searched for it. I’ve become hyper aware of THAT.
I didn’t know, but it’s so completely unnecessary. Let me give an example.
There are things that you don’t know about me, Detective Jones.
How did that read. Alright-ish, yeah? It’s fine, whatever. But now, read this:
There are things you don’t know about me, Detective Jones.
So much better, is it not?
Not convinced? It’s OK. I’ll work harder.
The grey house that was at the end of the street had always had a strange look about it, like there was a cloud that hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.
Writing the above took me a considerable amount of time. It’s easy in the heat of the moment to craft a terrible sentence, but when on the spot, I couldn’t conjure the words. OK. The sentence is truly bad. Here’s the fix for “that”.
The grey house at the end of the street had always had a strange look about it, like there was a cloud which hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.
like there was a cloud hanging over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.
Take the word “that” away, and if it reads alright, you didn’t need it in the first place. If you take “that” out and it doesn’t make sense, sub in “which” for inanimate (non-sentient) objects, and “who” when it’s a sentient object. For example, if the cloud was our main character, with feeling we’d say: like there was a demon cloud who hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.
I don’t know why it was a demon cloud, but when it’s a demon cloud, it’s a “who”, but if it was a demonic cloud, back to “which”.
Or maybe you do a bit of rewording magic and remove the need for either/any.
Let’s just take the last sentence, and write the better version of it, sans “had”.
The grey house at the end of the street always had a strange look about it, like there was a cloud which hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.
The first “had” is totally unneeded. If you want to take it a step further (not farther, even though we’re stepping… it’s a metaphorical step…) we’ll remove them both.
The grey house at the end of the street always looked strange, like there was a cloud which hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.
Bleh, it’s used improperly so often.
So, this post is getting too long for my liking… much too long. Not sure if you noticed after reading that headline, but I’ve used “so” several times throughout this posting.
“So completely unnecessary”
“So much better”
None of those “so’s” do anything for the sentence other than emphasize it. If you want to emphasize something, don’t use “so”, use a different word.
Alright. There’s more words, but this post is, as said, drawing on. Night kiddies. Don’t get into these pitfalls of words.