Writing Secrets: The one word you should not be using

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

I saw spots before my eyes as I was struck over the head by yet another “as” construction.

I fully admit it, I’m an as-ist. I have developed an aversion to the word “as”. But there’s a reason for it. It’s overused. It has begun to rot my teeth and send my insulin levels soaring.

There are several reasons to keep the “as” complex sentence to a minimum. Its proliferation makes it irritating. I’m not sure why, but it seems to have become a writing tic – the catch-all sentence structure.

It makes the pace of your writing monotonous, particularly in moments of great drama. It’s better to consider the effect of your sentence structure on the subject matter. Perhaps it would serve you better, in that moment, to use simple sentences, to increase the pace and emphasise the effect you’re hoping to achieve through your unfolding action.

It can also allow your drama to leak away. Consider the sentence I began with. First you’re told of the effect on me (I saw spots), and only then, at the end of a long complex sentence, are you given the cause. But the cause is actually the source of the drama. That’s where the action is: I was struck over the head by yet another “as”.

Your reader focuses on the first part of the sentence, which isn’t as strong, and only as an afterthought gets to the nub of the matter.

It brings home to me again the importance of every level of writing. If you care about the craft, don’t concentrate only on the complexity of your characters and the brilliant ingenuity of your plot. Pay attention to every word, and every sentence, if you want your writing to sing.

Read Richard’s latest blog: ‘Monday Motivation: How not to write the bits that readers skip

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