Owl Editing

Owl Editing

Tips for writers

Effective Writing: Sort Out Your Ideas (2)

Nobody, we might suppose, would write a sentence as bad as,

Miss Jones finished her solo at ten o’clock and immediately afterward they found the house on fire.

Yet how much better is the following paragraph, written in a style with which most of us are all too familiar?

The June meeting of the Groveton Parent-Teacher Association was held Monday evening, and a large number of members was in attendance. Dr. James Jones was in the chair, and William Hennessey, of the Guidance Department of Groveton’s schools, was the speaker. The interest aroused by Mr. Hennessey’s address was very great, and it was decided to have a series of special talks on guidance as part of next year’s PTA program. The first meeting of the coming term will be held on the third Monday in September, and the new officers will take over their duties at that meeting.

And so on, drearily, until the end. Is it any wonder that everyone goes to sleep during the reading of the minutes?

Occasionally a writer decides that one idea in one sentence can present no dilemma. This person will write,

Lorenzo the Magnificent is known in history as a great patron of the arts. He was the grandson of Cosimo de’ Medici. Lorenzo was born in Florence in 1449.

Here we have the best style of the primary reading books, whose readers cannot handle more than one idea at a time. Try:

Lorenzo the Magnificent, grandson of Cosimo de’ Medici, and a renowned patron of the arts, was born in Florence in 1449,

or,

Lorenzo the Magnificent, born in Florence in 1449, grandson of Cosimo de’ Medici, was a renowned patron of the arts,

or,

Lorenzo the Magnificent, a renowned patron of the arts, born in Florence in 1449, was a grandson of Cosimo de’ Medici.

Which one? Only he who writes the sentence knows; he must make the choice so that the reader may know.

 

continued…


 

Robinson, Berton. 1963. 12 Steps to Effective Writing. Chapter 3.