I don’t mean all your sentences should be short; on the contrary, varying your sentence length will aid the rhythm and flow of your writing. What I mean is that it’s best not to cram unrelated ideas into one sentence and try to make them fit. This is a mistake I often see from inexperienced writers.
Consider this: Kathy was now thirteen and sang Robin a song as they both sat on the front steps of the house.
In this sentence, there are two completely unrelated ideas: Kathy’s age and the singing of the song. It’s clumsy.
Do readers need to know Kathy is thirteen? If not, delete it. Try this: ‘Kathy sang Robin a song as they both sat on the front steps of the house.’ (Or, better: ‘Kathy sang to Robin as they sat on the front steps.’)
If it is important for readers to know Kathy’s age right at this point, try rephrasing: ‘Thirteen-year-old Kathy sang to Robin as they sat on the front steps.’) Better still, if readers need to know Kathy is thirteen, find another place to tell them so – but not in this sentence.
About this blog
Through my experience as an editor, a reader and a book reviewer, I’ve noticed that some writing faults keep just popping up again and again. As an author, I’m especially aware of those writing crimes that I’m frequently tempted to commit myself. This series of brief tips addresses the common writing problems that I’ve encountered. Following them will help make your writing clear, accurate and stylish.