Wednesday, August 19, 2015

STICKY SENTENCES by Aidee Ladnier





A Sticky Situation: Avoiding Sticky Sentences


So one of my favorite writing tools is ProWritingAid.com.  It picks out vague words, long sentences, lovely adjectives, and overused words. I don’t use it exclusively when I edit, but at least one early pass through ProWritingAid allows me to pick out some of the really obvious errors.
But one thing it found in my writing that I wasn’t aware of, was sticky sentences. So I had to do a little research. Sticky sentences, as you might expect, contain lots of glue words.
Glue words are the unnecessary little words you use every day. They are this, the, out, if, about, good, what, there…you get the idea. They aren’t pretty. They work hard. But they could be replaced by better, more expressive, and more poetic words—words that will make your prose shine, make your explanations easier to comprehend, and make the dialogue coming out of your character’s mouth sound eloquent.

 In a sense, they stick on your writing, slowing down a reader who’s trying to understand a wordy, padded sentence. It might make you think you sound smarter to use so many words while getting a really small point across, but you’re just making it harder for your reader.
So let’s give an example and run an experiment. I’m going to rewrite the previous four paragraphs to take out some of the sticky sentences and glue words. Currently, those paragraphs clock in at 200 words.

Revised Paragraphs (140 words):

ProWritingAid.com is a favorite writing tool of mine.  The software picks out vague and overused words, long sentences, and adjectives. I use ProWritingAid during an early editing pass to pick out obvious errors. 

One thing ProWritingAid finds is sticky sentences. Sticky sentences, as you might expect, contain lots of glue words. 

Glue words are unnecessary words you use every day. Examples are this, the, out, if, about, good, what, there…you get the idea. They aren’t pretty. They work hard. But they could be replaced by better, more expressive, and more poetic words—words that will make your prose shine, make your explanations easier to comprehend, and make your characters eloquent.

Sticky sentences are wordy and padded. Many writers believe they sound smarter by using more words, but readers need to understand your work and not just be impressed by it.

--So which paragraphs do you prefer? The rambling, sticky draft at the top or the more polished and concise version at the bottom? Do you find your sentences sticky?

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