When we look at our manuscript’s pages, imagine them as a verbal warehouse. A literal warehouse uses different machines for lifting different types of products. Neat warehouses, like neat writing, are well-organized. Some machines, such as forklifts, can lift heavier items than other machines, such as hand trucks.
The same is true in our English language. Some parts of speech are forklifts, others hand trucks. Our language also has “pasteboard” boxes, as we shall see.
The Forklifts: Nouns, Pronouns and Verbs
These parts of speech, if well-chosen, do the heaviest lifting in a sentence.
More often than not, hand trucks aren’t needed.
The Hand Trucks: Adjectives and Adverbs
Sometimes, though, these verbal hand trucks are needed. When? When concrete nouns and dynamic action verbs alone can’t create a precise image in readers’ minds.
Pasteboard Boxes: Prepositions and Conjunctions
Every warehouse I’ve ever been in has merchandise in boxes, usually pasteboard boxes. These keep the merchandise clean and well-organized. Similarly, verbal “boxes” are necessary to help our sentences flow smoothly and clearly by keeping them well-organized. But do they pack a lot of weight? Most often, they don’t. But we do need them, and when we use them with “forklifts” and “hand trucks,” they help make our sentences the strongest and clearest they can be. Use them carefully, though. Too many in a sentence can also cause clutter.
1. The horse ran very fast through the field.
2. The thoroughbred galloped through the cotton field.
3. The brown thoroughbred galloped through the cotton field.
Which of the three sentences is the strongest? The third one, because it creates the most visual image in the reader’s mind.
“horse” and “field” – too general. We don’t know what kind of horse, nor do we know what kind of field the horse ran through.
“very fast” – also too general. How fast is “very fast”? More often than not, “very” isn’t needed, so be on the lookout for this adverb.
“through” – this preposition, though lightweight, is needed for clarity. It shows us the direction the horse is running.
“thoroughbred” – a strong concrete noun. Here, we see a specific breed of horse.
“galloped” — more specific. We can see how fast the horse is running.
“cotton field” — more specific/concrete. We can also visualize the field.
“brown” – an adjective that’s needed. Because thoroughbreds come in several colors, “brown” helps readers visualize the horse even better.
Coming next week, an interview with Jodie Wolfe. author of To Claim Her Heart, a novel set during the Oklahoma Land Rush. Be sure to visit the Interview page next week to read it.