Little Foxes

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines [have] tender grapes—Song of Solomon 2:15, KJV

Do we have “little foxes” that spoil an otherwise well-written piece of prose? Let me rephrase. Do we have too many “little foxes”? All of us writers have them. They often pop out on our pages while we’re writing. Oftentimes, we’re unaware of their presence.

Little wordy foxes are words we tend to overuse, words such as so and that. Every author has his/her own foxes, and we must be careful not to overdo ours. Many times, we don’t need them.

Let’s look at the word that.

            1.         John thought that Billy played golf yesterday.

            2.         John thought Billy played golf yesterday.

In the second example, I deleted that because the sentence is clear without it. A good way to identify when this word is unnecessary is when it follows a verb. In such cases, the word usually isn’t needed. Read your that sentences without using it. Is your writing still clear? If it is, delete that.

Let’s look at the word so.

            1.         So, John sees you can cook.

            2.         John sees Mary can cook.

            3.         He lifted the bucket so he could dump out its contents.

The first example is acceptable in dialogue, but if we use lots of sentences starting with so in our narrative, write it like the second example. Example three is fine as well because it’s used as a conjunction.

Do use these little verbal foxes, but use them correctly. Also, take care not to overdo them because if too many sneak in, they’ll spoil our writing.

Till next week, friends!

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