February 21st, 2011

damned

Answer: style options for long, wordy, repetitive sentences

Question: mirror_mirrin asks, What style options are there for sentences which repeat the same word (e.g., "the," "a," "that")? (ex. John leaned over the table at the mess hall to give Rodney a kiss goodbye before leaving for the war games planned on the Athosian mainland.)

There's not really anything wrong with repeating little words in a sentence, but there's something about it that just doesn't feel quite right, isn't there? The example sentence that mirror_mirrin gives us is a perfectly fine sentence. It's grammatically correct, it's straightforward, it tells us who's doing what and where they're going next. There's nothing wrong with it at all. But it's an awfully long sentence. If you read it out loud, you're going to have to pause in the middle to take a breath. It sounds kind of clunky with all those little words.

The issue here, fans of grammar, is wordiness. There's nothing technically wrong with a wordy sentence, but the faster the sentence can deliver its information, then the faster the reader will understand it. This is even more important for us today because of the internet--people want to get to the point even more quickly when they read online. And a long, wordy, clunky sentence can turn off potential readers, making your story seem overly long and boring. Let's take a look at some strategies for reducing wordiness and getting the point across in a way that pops.

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