Losing the Punch

Many sentences in our writing have the potential for packing a punch. It all depends on the choice of words and sometimes the punctuation. One of our goals, as writers, is to keep the reader turning pages. We need to choose our words carefully to achieve this.

 

The tension in a scene can be lost if you don’t pay attention to maintaining the emphasis and focus on what you are trying to say. Losing the punch in your writing can leave the reader feeling like this fellow (above), deflated and less inclined to continue reading.

One way to lose your reader is to drone on, explaining too much. Don’t repeat a point once you’ve made it.

A dull way to express yourself is to use the passive voice. The word “passive” itself tells us that not much action is taking place. Here are two examples of how you can change a sentence from passive to active.

The Passive Voice

Passive

The wobbling bike rider was hit by the car.

Active

The car hit the wobbling bike rider.

Passive

The burglar was bitten in the leg by the snarling dog.

Active

The snarling dog bit the burglar’s leg.

Punctuation

Overused exclamation points dilute the impact of an otherwise exciting scene.

Keep the use of exclamation points to a minimum. A good rule is to save them for one or two-word expressions.

Run! Hurry! Jump! These one-word expressions warrant exclamation points.

I think you should run! This longer sentence is no better off with the exclamation points. On the contrary, it looks amateurish to use exclamation points in an effort to make a dull, long phrase sound more exciting.

Overused Adjectives and Adverbs

When used to enhance writing, these words often do just the opposite. Avoid them as much as possible. Here is a list of some of them.

  • awfully
  • beautiful(ly)
  • certainly
  • exciting
  • extremely
  • fantastic
  • highly
  • perfectly
  • pretty (much)
  • really
  • richly
  • so
  • such
  • super
  • swell
  • too
  • tremendous(ly)
  • very
  • wonderful(ly)

The list is far from complete, but you’ll recognize words like these when you look for them and take them out of your writing.

“Short and punchy” is more interesting than a long, droning narrative.

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