30 September 2013

One of the reasons why I maintain a blog is to become a better writer. I was doing a little text mining on my previous posts and I realized that I tend to start sentences with There is and There are when it is not really necessary. For example:

  • There is a lot of wizardry that surrounds the getline command.
  • There is a megaton of material we didn’t cover, but here is a great link.

This type of sentences are almost always improved by removing the there is/are:

  • A lot of wizardry surrounds the getline command.
  • We didn’t cover a megaton of material, but here is a great link.

Matt Might has a nice post with advice on avoiding weasel words and lexical illusions.

Tips that improve grammar are great, but I’m still trying to figure out what I need to incorporate to my writing arsenal to craft sentences like Simon Winchester. I keep coming back to this one, where he describes an ocean liner:

She was fastened securely to the Pier Head, just beside the old Princes Dock, a dozen hemp ropes as thick as a man’s arm keeping her quite still, aloof to the weather. But from the bustle of last-minute activity around her and the smoke being torn urgently from her single yellow funnel, it was clear she was already straining at the leash: with her twenty-five thousand tons of staunchly riveted Clydeside steel, the Empress was readying herself to sail three thousand miles westward, across the Atlantic Ocean, and I had a ticket to board her.

The imagery, the choice of words, the pace, the conclusion; it’s just brilliant.

I guess I’ll just keep writing.