Do you ever feel like your writing voice is a little...droning?
As you read back something you've written, maybe you hear something reminiscent of Ben Stein’s nasally voice saying, “Bueller?...Bueller?”
Sometimes when we forget to vary our sentence structure, the end result feels a little stiff and boring. The flow just isn’t there.
As a result, reading what we’ve written feels like hopping from stone to stone rather than skiing seamlessly on the surface of the water.
So how do you fix that without taking a high school English class again and learning about sentence structure variation via prepositions, clauses, em dashes and the like?
Well, you could just read this from author Gary Provost:
Now, I could spend the rest of this newsletter breaking down the technicalities behind syntax, but let’s be honest here: That would be boring as eff.
The example above, however, illustrates the concept in a really easy to understand way. And I’m always up for showing rather than telling.
Here are a few quick things you can take from the example above:
Vary your sentence length.
If all your sentences are short, add a comma and join a few together into one longer sentence. If all your sentences are long, sprinkle in a few short ones. Words are art, and keystrokes are your paintbrushes. Don’t paint with just a few colors when you’ve got a full palette.
You can start sentences with ‘and’ or ‘because’ (even though your English teacher said not to!) If that’s part of your writing style, embrace it.
Reinforce important ideas with single word sentences.
Is there an important word at the end of the sentence you really want to stick with the reader? Reinforce it by stating it again as its own sentence (just as you would while speaking.)
Embrace the em dash.
When speaking, we all use pauses to communicate inflection, drama, etc. Em dashes (—) help you do that on the page. Use them when you want the reader to slow down or when you’re shifting ideas within a single sentence. I think of them as a mental hand on the arm of the reader that communicates, “Okay, but really listen to this part.”
Implementing a few of these small tweaks can do wonders for your writing voice and can get you out of the “drone zone.”
You don’t even have to know what a dependent clause is.
This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.