Thank you to everyone’s positive comments on my previous post. I wanted to share my biggest mistakes that I was making. These are mistakes when it comes to academic writing, creative writing has many rules that are meant to be broken.
1. Run-on sentences: Growing up, I was taught to read and write in Russian, where it is not much of a rule, but a rule to be broken: run-on sentences; I would often have full paragraphs of run-on sentences, which I didn’t know was such a bad thing; sometimes, you’d even be lucky to find multiple semi-colons in my writing, as I figured it was the same thing, commas and periods are just shorter vs longer pauses, respectively, right?”
I hope you thoroughly enjoyed that mouthful of a paragraph. The course taught me that short, full sentences are easier to read and understand. My long sentences were often peppered with words that didn’t add anything to it, but instead made my reader exhausted and forget the subject of my sentences.
2. “I don’t know what you mean here” Part 1: “This meant that it was a good thing to do for him”.
I would often start my sentences, paragraphs, dare I say, even titles, with words like “this”, “that”, “it”, without actually stating what any of “it” was. No wonder my readers didn’t understand what I was saying, the sentence has no subject. As the writer, I would often know full well what my subject is and not give much thought to the reader. This is why, when I would explain my writing to my teachers or demonstrators they would finally “understand what I mean”. I’m not saying that I no longer use sentences like this. I just make sure that there is a sentence prior clearly underlining the subject of the sentence to come.
3. “I don’t know what you mean here” Part 2: “My husband ran over a toad and his right back leg is injured, is there anything I can do for him?”
I found this sentence on a herping group (a group for people who like amphibians and reptiles) and this sentence made me laugh. I would write sentences like this all the time! The subject of the sentence is “My husband”. From this sentence structure, a reader might rightfully assume this woman’s husband needs a doctor ASAP. But logically, why would the woman be posting about her husbands leg in a herping group. Well that’s because within her sentence, she has switched the subject to the toad, without letting the reader know.
4. “I don’t know what you mean here” Part 3: “I love ballet dancing. The movement, the music, the pain one feels at the end of the day. I can sing too. I love going to concerts, seeing the dancers, the different types of instruments people play, and getting to dress up”.
That one hurt to write. These few sentences have so much to say and so little to understand. Am I talking about three different things, or maybe it’s two? Do I like dressing up when dancing, or going to concerts? Where is this all going! This happens if I write what I am thinking, but my typing can’t keep up. This is why it is important to edit your writing.
5. “I don’t know what you mean here” Part 4: “I would often make sentences that I thought could stand alone. But they certainly couldn’t.”
In order to break up my run-on sentences, I would just change commas to periods. This only made things worse. I’d often create fragment sentences that were missing a subject, a verb, a subordinate clause, or a bit of everything. I think this is why my teachers told me: never start a sentence with “because”. I NEVER started a sentence with “because”, but I’d start sentences with “due to this” instead. Different words, same problem.
6. Remove words and making shorter sentences: “Sarah feels like she has to pretend to be interested in books so that her teachers will think she is smart”.
That’s a mouthful. I try to make my sentences short and sweet, while still conveying my full message. I often would put extra verbs like “to have to” or leave my verbs unconjugated: saying “to want” instead of “wanted”, etc. In the sentence above I’d edit it down to: Sarah pretends to be interested in books, so that her teachers think she is smart.
7. The ol’ swicharoo: “Not having studied, I failed the exam”.
This one may be up for debate, but I personally prefer “I failed the exam, after not studying”. An even better solution would be: “I failed the exam because I didn’t study”. This way I am introducing the topic before any followups about it.