Are you looking for ways to write better sentences? In this post, we look at 10 types of sentences you won’t see in good writing.
The difference between good or bad writing can be difficult to explain, but we all know bad writing when we see it.
Bad writing is clumsy. It can be painful, too fast or slow, nonsensical or vague. When imagining it, think of everything that you don’t want to read. Readers can’t enjoy, relate to, or associate with bad writing.
The whole point of developing writing skills is avoidance of bad writing.
Do you need to say ‘he ran hurriedly’, or is there a better way to say it?
That’s a trick question. As a writer, there’s always a better way to say it.
Now, have you ever skimmed over an email because of bad writing? Have you ever put down a book or closed an article because it was practically painful to read?
If a writer doesn’t think they can improve their writing, then that’s the problem with their writing.
Good Writing (Versus Bad Writing)
Awful movies might become cult classics, but bad writing is always bad writing.
We edit our work for this reason. Draft 1 becomes draft 2, and the second looks better than the first.
The goal of editing is always less bad writing, and more of the good stuff.
Very few writers have it right at the first draft. (Yes, we all edit down here.) That’s okay, and that’s what writing is.
‘Bad sentences’ are an edit away from becoming better ones. These are sentences that slow the reader down, bore the reader, provide nothing new, repeat information, or just suck at the first draft.
Again, that’s okay. That’s the point of the editing process.
3 Essential Editing Tips For Spotting Bad Sentences
Editing isn’t always easy, but it can be made easier.
Here are 3 essential editing tips for spotting and cutting bad sentences
1. Trust Your Gut
Sentences that feel wrong, probably are. A writer’s gut takes time to fine-tune, but the reader inside of you knows when something could sound better.
Read the first draft. Mark any sentences that set off your Internal Nope Sensors. Edit from there.
Hint: it also helps to get a second, professional opinion.
2. Find Alternatives
Spotted a bad sentence? Rewrite it in two or three different ways, or move it around. Editing is about finding alternatives to say things better, differently, or say them in more suitable places.
3. Use AI Tools
Artificial intelligence can spot writing that needs improvement. Modern writers and editors should use this.
It’s the rise of the machines. Let them help you to edit.
10 Types Of Sentences You Won’t See In Good Writing
See good writing as a quest, or a journey. Take it step by step, and don’t step in any holes or crevices along the way.
Here are 10 types of sentences you won’t see in good writing.
1. Sentences With Incorrect Facts
‘Gauteng is South Africa’s biggest province.’
Fiction still requires the use of facts. Gauteng has the most people in South Africa, but it is not the largest province.
It’s okay to stretch the truth for fiction, but it’s not okay to get obvious, true facts wrong.
For example, if a fictional story gets real details about places, dates, or a reader’s home town wrong, it feels unresearched. It might even mess with the story’s plot.
There’s stretching fact for fantasy, and there’s getting stuff wrong. When using facts in fiction, get things right.
2. Sentences With Adverbs, More Adverbs (Plus Adverbs)
Most readers don’t enjoy the overuse of adverbs, either. As a writer, there are always better alternatives than overloading on adverbs. Writing should be creative, not lazy.
Adverbs are like the truffles of fine writing. Stick to a sprinkle, or you’ll ruin the dish.
3. Sentences That Are Walls Of Text
‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Then the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog again. The dog fell straight over the […]’
Walls of text get skimmed (or skipped) by readers.
It’s especially true for business writing, but it applies to fiction, too.
Sentences should always be presented as readable. We need to create white space. Don’t strain the reader’s mind, or their eyes.
4. Sentences With Ejaculations Everywhere
”Don’t do it!’ he ejaculated,’
People say. He said, she said. Exclaimed, even.
People don’t ejaculate their words in modern fiction.
Good writing finds alternatives. This example illustrates this point very well.
5. Sentences Left Incomplete
‘The man walked and then he’
Incomplete sentences are a common writing error.
Sentences aren’t finished, and now they just hang there in the middle of nowhere.
It’s common during writing when a section or thought is unfinished (and never filled in). It can also happen while editing, or when a section is accidentally deleted and missed.
Writers beware: it’s an error that sneaks in through hurried editing.
This is why we edit, and why good editing never happens in a hurry.
6. Sentences With A Hundred Details
‘The plains were stretched out in front of him. He inspected the blades of grass. The sky was blue. His shoes were black. The wind was freezing. He was tired, and it was a Tuesday.’
Detail is great, but detail shouldn’t feel like sinking into quicksand.
Great, elaborate, several sentence descriptions that can last for pages achieves nothing for your plot. It doesn’t impress the reader. It can even irritate your editor.
7. Sentences With Sudden New Characters (Or New Names)
‘Jake and Jill were alone in the room together. John moved his arm closer.’
Accidentally changing a character’s name to something else mid-story can happen. A sudden mention of a new character or person that hasn’t been introduced before is also a possible fiction flaw.
Beware of either. Read carefully during the editing phase to avoid these sentences best.
8. Sentences With Patronising Explanations
‘He said this abruptly. That means he was brief.’
Readers never like being patronised.
Writers who talk down or explain when unnecessary is a fast route to irritating a reader. Simple, don’t do it.
9. Sentences With Additions
‘The man thought about it (by himself) – and at first – before he spoke.’
Sure, you can add extra thoughts in brackets – or like this – in the middle of a sentence.
But it’s also a great way to lose track, and the reader’s attention.
10. Sentences With Explicit, Graphic Descriptions
”The blood was on the walls, smeared on the ceiling. It was the worst thing he had ever seen before.’ says Jake, 12.’
Fiction and nonfiction markets (especially horror) cautions against graphic, gratuitous violence, or explicit sentences.
It’s unnecessary. Shock value turns good writing bad fast, and can be in bad taste. Avoid it, rewrite it, be careful of it.
The Last Word
If you want to strengthen your sentences and improve your writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
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