Yesterday, I dashed off this tweet.
What happened next was an unexpected and enjoyable kerfuffle! Writers, editors, NaNoWriMo aficionados and assorted astute Twitter users weighed in. What fun!
“Dashed off” is key here. It violates my own principle about thinking deeply about words (and rhythm and sound and syntax and context) before declaring a sentence whole. But of course this isn’t a sentence. It’s a screen shot of a specific example from That’s Implicit, Get Rid of It, one of the ten lessons in the online course I’m facilitating, IMPROVE YOUR WRITING: Ten Essential Tools for Streamlining Your Sentences. As such, the screen shot has a particular context, which of course wasn’t evident in the space of a tweet.
Here’s what transpired.
@LiteraryLiving When you take those words out the sentences become commands. They're more precise but not better.
— Kate (@Kate_Goldsmith) December 9, 2014
— Flower Bear (@featherlou) December 9, 2014
@LiteraryLiving also, look at the sky, is not the same as look up at the sky. looking at a sunset sky does not require looking up.
— Juliette (@JuliettePhD) December 9, 2014
@LiteraryLiving I think you have to bear context in mind. If you want in-book time to be longer for effect, then "look up at" is fine.
— Alice (@clockwork_royal) December 9, 2014
— Margret Geraghty (@MargretGeraghty) December 9, 2014
— Kate Long (@volewriter) December 9, 2014
@LiteraryLiving It's good to be able to fill in blanks or interpret things without being told (unless it's crucial to be specific).
— Maxine Lee (@maxillustration) December 9, 2014
@LiteraryLiving I agree, each word has to earn its living. If it's not needed for context, cut it. Good reminder!
— Suzanne Bosworth (@MediaWeasel) December 9, 2014
— Colin Mc Ardle (@colinblackrock) December 9, 2014
Wonderful! This is exactly what I love about writers and editors! We get fussed about such things. We wrangle, we determine, we decide.
For the record, I agree with most of these tweets! In the context of the lesson from the online course, the screenshot example about cutting clutter was designed to solicit exactly the sorts of opinions and discussion that took place on Twitter. The lesson is about when to cut words, and when not to. It’s about the importance of context and neighboring sentences and syntax and rhythm and meaning. It’s about thinking deeply about words and sentence structure.
I’m delighted to have sparked this small kerfuffle.
And equally delighted to have learned that thinking deeply about Tweets before sending them off into the world is as important as carefully considering every sentence.
Now, what feedback might you astute readers have on this post? What have I gotten wrong, or right? Have at it!
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