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February 8, 2011
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For the short of time, patience or remaining-eyesight: here is a quick, ten-point tutorial for better prose.

The points are drawn from books, articles, casually-offered-advice and my own experience. Much like the Ten Commandments, they aren't all concrete rules. Just things to strongly keep in mind.


1. Vary sentence structure.
-> In particular, avoid starting every line with "I..." or "He..."
-> Try to vary your sentence length too.

2. Don't repeat words within a sentence.
-> Or too many times in sentences that follow each other.
-> Avoid repeated use of character names by using he/she where possible.

3. Avoid adverbs.
-> They clutter sentences and there's usually a better way.
-> Ask yourself, "Does this add any new information?"

4. Swap "which" for "that" where possible.
-> This is black magic. It just sounds better.
-> Also avoid "however".

5. Make pairs of adjectives different.
-> Think "big strong" as opposed to "huge gigantic".
-> Also try to avoid over-used or clichéd descriptions.

6. Check your metaphors. Double-check your similes.
-> They always need to make at least a small amount of sense.
-> If they don't, they'll jerk the reader out of the story.

7. Don't overuse exclamation marks or ellipses.
-> And really don't double them!!
-> Overuse of "exotic" punctuation can distract a reader from your writing.

8. Remove speech tags where possible. Where not possible, use "he/she said".
-> Words like "yelled", "screamed" and "cried" are distracting.
-> Make sure the reader always knows who's talking.

9. Avoid the passive voice.
-> "Bob carried Julia" is active. "Julia was carried by Bob" is passive.
-> Talk about people doing things, not having things done to them.

10. Read it out loud.
-> You can often hear problems better than you can see them.
-> At the very least, you'll catch more typos this way!
I know, I know. Two tutorials uploaded in one evening. I've been doing a lot of thinking around this sort of stuff while I try to edit one of my own stories.

Like it says at the top, try not to take this as some sort of Gospel truth. It's just the sort of thing I like to tape to my wall.

-

Found this helpful? Point your browser here for the rest of my tutorials.
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:iconkhateley:
Khateley Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow, three years ago? And I found this now?! Thank you so much!
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Glad you like it. Thanks. :)
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:iconastrikos:
Astrikos Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013   General Artist
Featured your helpful deviation here. :love:
Reply
:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. :)
Reply
:iconastrikos:
Astrikos Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2013   General Artist
:heart:
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:iconpt-piranha:
PT-Piranha Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012
Never mind, I figured out what you meant, about speech tags.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Good good. Sorry if that isn't very clear.

(And sorry it's taken me so long to reply! My life has been chaos for the last few months.)
Reply
:iconpt-piranha:
PT-Piranha Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013
It's fine.
Reply
:iconpt-piranha:
PT-Piranha Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012
What do you mean by "remove speech tags where possible"?
Reply
:iconryuu-izou:
Ryuu-Izou Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Love it! :D

Just one thing:

8. Remove speech tags where possible. Where not possible, use "he/she said".
-> Words like "yelled", "screamed" and "cried" are distracting.
-> Make sure the reader always knows who's talking.

Why shouldn't I use words like "yelled", "screamed" and "cried"?
Reply
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