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Arranging Words in a Pleasing Order

Perhaps my favourite description of writing is ‘arranging words in a pleasing order.’ (This comes courtesy of Sir Terry Pratchett. Again.)

Even at last week’s book reading at Waterstone’s, I realised that if I were editing ‘Half-truths and White Lies’ now, I would have kept the language simpler. During my reading, I skipped over words that I thought were clumsy or unnecessary, and they didn’t detract from the meaning. Reading your own writing out loud is an interesting exercise and one that shouldn’t wait until it is print. Ask yourself this: does each sentence sound pleasing – to say as well as to listen to?

Take an example: ‘To lose a small boy in a world so wide is an easy thing.’

Perfect, and only one word of more than one syllable. It isn’t necessary to have the reader reaching for a dictionary to convey meaning. Small boy. World so wide. Easy thing. Without use of the word ‘relationship,’ we understand there is a deep connection between narrator and boy. Without using the word ‘perspective,’ we understand the insignificance of one person alone in the world, but of his significance to the narrator.  ‘Small’ tells us the boy is vulnerable and may be in danger: that he must be found. There are hints of a journey to be undertaken. To test the sentence further, try supplementing  words with similar meanings: ‘Little’ instead of ‘small’; ‘simple’ instead of  ‘easy.’ Change the order of play (‘It is an easy thing to lose a small boy in a world so wide’) and all sense of poetry is lost.

Jane recommends The Unicorn Road by Martin Davies


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    Comment by Shayari on July 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm
  2. Always glad to be of help with a school project. Get in touch if you need anything more specific. Good luck with the grades.

    Comment by admin on July 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm