Little Words That Ruin Sentences
Watch out for these...
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
Do you know the difference between a good sentence and a GREAT sentence?
One of the most interesting “writing rules” I came across in college was Hemingway’s feelings on adverbs.
He hated adverbs.
He called them “lazy writing.”
(Adverbs being any descriptor word ending in -ly: Lazily, Eerily, Honestly, Mostly, etc.)
Learning about that rule changed my writing forever. And while I still make the mistake of using one-too-many adverbs here and there, I try very hard to not fill my sentences with them. Adverbs, I’ve learned, are passive ways of saying the same thing the sentence is already saying.
You don’t need them.
But since learning about that rule, and realizing the ways it improved my writing, I started looking for more rules:
And a big one I’ve come across has been the importance of removing “little words.”
Little words (especially in turns of phrase like “In so forth” or “So much as”) have a knack for killing what could be a great, powerful, concise sentence—and turning it into a soupy mess.
[Original sentence]: “One of the most common changes that occurs when people go off to college is they become different versions of themselves.”
[Rewrite]: “When people go off to college, they become different versions of themselves.”
Both sentences are saying “the same thing,” and yet the second sentence reads 10x easier than the first.
We removed all the little words:
So, the next time you’re staring at a sentence and can’t quite put your finger on why it’s not reading the way you want it to read, ask yourself: “What little words can I delete here?”
With writing, less is always more.
Nicolas “Small Changes, Big Results” Cole