I’m not going to be attacking purple prose here. I love a good flowery book, so I have no complaints. What I am going to attack is complex sentences. Specifically, complex sentences that don’t need to be a part of your manuscript.
What is a complex sentence?
When I’m talking about complex sentences, I’m mostly mean sentences that run long. I get it, you wanna fit a lot of information into your paragraph, but that doesn’t mean you should suffocate your reader.
A complex sentence is as follows; it is a sentence that can be repetitive, poorly written, lengthy, adjective heavy, and that perhaps tells you some important information but that information is buried in a wall of text that feels exhausting to read, the kind of sentence that makes you forget the beginning of it before you reach it, often causing the reader to feel breathless, suffocated and entirely fed up with the writing, I would say complex sentences are one of the top reasons a writer will DNF a book.
See how it feels? This example is extreme, but it’s not the worst complex sentence that I’ve witnessed.
What is simple writing?
Simple writing gets a bad rep yet open up almost any novel, and you will find that it is filled with simple words. This entire article is filled with words that you use daily. It makes sense and it is easy to read, well, except for one paragraph.
When writing, you must remember your target audience. A reader is someone who trying to relax. They don’t necessarily want to think too hard, and they definitely didn’t buy a book just so that they could decode it in their free time.
Simple writing is made up of sentences that do a job. Most sentences convey information, either by emotion, exposition, or description. If a sentence doesn’t have a clear purpose, it shouldn’t be part of the finished product.
How to edit for clarity
One of the easiest ways to tell if your sentence is overly complex is to read it out loud. If at any point you find breathing difficult, it’s time to put in a punctuation mark. Information should be broken up into separate sentences. Adjectives should be sparsely used. If you find yourself with a list of three or four descriptors, try to use the one that evokes the best image.
‘Her curly, bouncy, shiny, red head of hair’ could become ‘Her auburn curls’ It’s the same image with way fewer words. It’s a simple sentence because your reader only has to imagine one thing, whereas, with the first example, the reader has to imagine a constantly changing image in their head.
Simplifying your writing does not mean losing the meaning behind your work. It means making your writing concise and clear so that the reader understands what your trying to say.
As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf.