By Suzy Leopold
As a writer you write words, sentences, and paragraphs. As a writer you read books on the craft of writing.
In Several Short Sentences About Writing, teacher and author, Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about what it means to be embraced in the act of writing by thinking and noticing.
A writer begins with an idea and writes a draft. As you revise, many words, even complete sentences, and paragraphs will be deleted because the manuscript becomes overcrowded. Verlyn Klinkenborg refers to this congestion as word huddles and phrases combined into a single long sentence.
Think about the shape, form, and structure to write clearer sentences using the best words and deleting unnecessary words. Imagine revision as giving sentences a different rhythm. Write and shape strong and simple sentences.
Many sentences written in draft after draft need revision. Most often the challenge is how to fix, revise, and polish. During the revision process, writers know every word must prove to be essential; every word must earn its place. As author Pat Zietlow-Miller suggests, “cut the fluff.”
To make shorter sentences, remove every unnecessary word. Which words can the sentence live without?
Verlyn Klinkenborg suggests:
Your idea of necessary will change as your experience changes.
Every word is optional until it proves to be essential.
Listen for the sentence that’ revealed as you remove one word after another. You’ll hear the improvement when you find it.
Try, for instance, removing the word “the.”
Several Short Sentences About Writing
By Verlyn Klinkenborg
Published by First Vintage Books Edition, 2013
Author, Verlyn Klinkenborg begins:
“Here, in short, is what I want to tell you.
Know what each sentence says,
What it doesn’t say,
And what it implies.
Of these, the hardest is knowing what each sentence actually says.”
Throughout his book, Verlyn Klinkenborg suggests to begin writing with short sentences that include rhythm. He shares an analogy of having each sentence take the stage to say something. It simply says its part and leaves the stage. Each sentence is independent and does not help the sentence before it or after.
“It doesn’t wave to its friends in the audience or
pause to be acknowledged or applauded.”
Yet, we’ve been taught differently in high school and college. Many assume there’s a correlation between sentence length = intelligence.
Of course there is nothing wrong with well constructed lengthy sentences when needed. Writing shorter sentences replaces simplicity and precision with strength and balance.
You become a better writer by becoming a better reader. Writing well and reading well are reciprocal.
“Being a writer is an act of perpetual self-authorization.
Who’s going to give you the authority to feel that what you notice is important?
It will have to be you.”
This craft of writing book is sure to help you writer better by writing shorter sentences.
Praise for Verlyn Klinkenborg’s book:
“No other book, old or new, is as well reasoned as this, as entertaining or as wise . . . Best book on writing. Ever.” —New York Journal of Books
“This is simply one of the best books about writing I’ve ever read. Up there with Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird and other classics.” —Austin Kleon