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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

How Sentences Sound

'Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.'
William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of style.

All prose has a sound; writing isn't just story telling - it's how you get there that counts as well. Poor sentence construction along with grammatical misusage is a common problem. But even the more experienced writer can have trouble with sound. They might know how to write a beautiful sentence but may be less aware of echoes or unpleasant sounding consonants.
Sound can be a very difficult area to be in because the only person reading the words is usually the author themselves. Here are some other common sound problems:
  • Incorrect use of the semi colon.
  • Incorrect use of the colon
  • Incorrect use of the dash.
  • Incorrect use of parentheses
  • Echoes
  • Alliteration
  • Resonance
The easiest solution is to have a competent reader analyse the text. You can also read your manuscript aloud to yourself. This highlights weak parts of the text because more often than not you will stumble around certain areas. Sentences which are poorly constructed will no doubt have several potential meanings. When I first started writing, repetition of certain words used to get me all the time. To fix this problem I read the last three sentences back to myself constantly, until I was consciously aware of which words I was over using. This also helped me to expand my vocab greatly.
So what are your most common problems with sound?

Taken from: The First Five Pages: A Writer's guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile

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