Saturday, January 29, 2011

Please When You Write, Try To Do It Well...pretty please?

Good writing really does depend on more than making a collection of words worthy of belief.  In my opinion, a writer wants his work to be read by others with minds different than their own.  To this end, it requires practice and a lot of it.  For the any level of writer, maybe there's something below that you could put to use to polish that final draft into a gleaming manuscript of amazing(ness)!

1) A sentential adverb -- it's a single word or short phrase, usually interrupting normal syntax, used to lend emphasis to the words immediately proximate to the adverb.  Compare:
  • But the lake was not drained before April.
  • But the lake was not, in fact, drained before April.
2) Asyndeton consists of omitting conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses.  In a list of items, asyndeton gives the effect of unpremeditated multiplicity, of an extemporaneous rather than a labored account:
  • I came, I saw, I conquered.
  • She likes pickles, olives, raisins, dates, pretzels.
3) Polysyndeton is the use of a conjunction between each word, phrase, or clause, and is thus structurally the opposite of asyndeton. The rheotrical effect of polysyndeton, however, often shares with that of asyndeton a feeling of multiplicity, energetic enumeration, and building up.

  • "The water, like a witch's oils, / Burnt green, and blue, and white." --from Samuel Taylor Coleridge
4) Understatement deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it actually is and can be really effective in humor.

  • "Hey! Assbutt!" -- The angel Castiel getting archangel Michael's attention in the Season 5 Supernatural episode right before he sets him on fire with holy oil.  Calling Archangel Michael an "assbutt" is really funny understatement in the context of the show and had me and others laughing.
5) Litotes is a particular form of understatement generated by denying the opposite or contrary of the word which otherwise would be used.  Compare:
  • Heat waves are common in the summer.
  • Heat waves are not rare in the summer.
6) Use adjectives but only when necessary.  To identify weak adjectives (the ones you really don't want), ask yourself what they mean.  What exactly am I saying by using the word "dark"?  Is "perfect" really a good adjective in this situation? Here's an example of the bad use of an adjective that I've seen in more than one manuscript:

  • (something) was dark black.   Or, alternately, "He stared at me with his dark gaze while I lusted over his perfect features."
Black is already dark.  I actually cannot think of anything darker.  Please don't describe it as dark black.  And in the above sentence, dark and perfect are just silly.  It's impossible for me to imagine what exactly is going on because I've no idea what "dark" and/or "perfect" mean in this context.

You are wonderful :)


  1. Hi Michael. Glad you stopped by Caliban's Revenge (and enjoyed it). I loved this post, as well.

  2. You.. make me giggle. Assbutt indeed. I'm glad you write so well or this post would have been sad indeed! ;) Thank you for sharing your insights and I agree 100%!

  3. Thanks for visiting me at sixtyfivewhatnow. As for writing well, easier said than done. Most of the time, we're in a hurry to get our thoughts across; we're in a hurry to go to another task; so, we spurt out the words and hope they end up on the page in the correct order and with the precise slant.

    Interesting blog!

  4. Lizzy, Castiel is so funny. If you don't watch Supernatural you's totally funny.