Do you clutter your sentences?

A guest post from Tomica Bonner

(Bio on the awesome Ms. Bonner at the end of this post)

Do you clutter your sentences?

Why yes I do? I raise my hand knowing I’m guilty. I didn’t realize how bad I was until editors started chopping my sentences to bits. I overuse words, phrases and padded sentences. Well I’m learning my lesson. Now I just got to put it to use. I’m reading On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, and it says “Clutter is the disease of American writing.” I was shocked as I tend to write in useless words. He even edited the page below five times until he was satisfied.

Then while reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King he says leave adverbs alone, to quote correctly “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Well there you have it again. Once I’m done editing my book I know I will have to take out a lot of “EXTRA” and “USELESS” words. But I’m learning and having fun while I do, at least for now anyway. So here are some tips I’ve learned from these two books.

1.     When quoting you can’t go wrong with a simple “he said, she said”

2.     Simplify your sentences, get rid of useless words

3.     The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components

4.     Is what you trying to say clear to someone the first time through

5.     Clear thinking becomes clear writing

For me, it’s a work in progress. I know what to do and now I have to apply it. So even if it takes editing a sentence five times, that’s what I’ll do.

Tomica Bonner writes two blogs “Love of Books” where she shares with us the process of writing and marketing online through social media networks.  She just started “My Mom Network News” where she shares stories about being a mom of seven and current news stories about mothering.

Copyright 2010 Tomica Bonner All Rights Reserved

14 Responses to “Do you clutter your sentences?”
  1. LBDDiaries says:

    Why yes, yes I do sometimes have trouble with: “Is what you trying to say clear to someone the first time through” why do you ask? I have learned NOT to hit the send button until I read an email through again to see if it says what I want it to, or if I offended the person without thinking! This was EXCELLENT advice. Actually, enlarging and seeing the corrections on your picture up there showed me many errors I make. Amazing! I will write down the 5 tips and post them on the bulletin board above my comptuer. This may have been short and sweet, but it was stuffed full of great advice – thank you!

  2. Great post, Tomica!

    A little wisdom that MANY of us could use…including me! I use WAY too many words, and I know it! In fact, I have to go back often to “trim down” posts just because I wax poetic a bit much, to say the least.

  3. Irene says:

    *scratching head* I just write. I don’t think about diagramming sentences or if the verb matches the noun or whatever. What the hell is “sentence cluttering?” My head is cluttered, does that count? Cluttered sentences come from a cluttered brain I’d assume, and we don’t want to assume either.

    Pam, tell me you don’t sit there and analyze your work. It’s like forced ideas. I agree that spelling is a must when writing, there’s nothing more annoying than seeing every other word misspelled. And past and present tense usage….that’s also a must….but cluttered sentences?

    • Pamela says:

      Haha! Nope, I don’t. My blogs are written pretty fast. They’re pretty much “brain candy” for me.

      With my serious efforts at writing, I don’t think about it, I just write as fast as I can. But when I edit and re-write, then I worry about it. I’m trying to make it through an agent and on through a publisher, and I try to write tight and clean. I eliminate all the unnecessary words and try to rephrase things so that I say what I meant to say in the least possible words with the highest impact. But that’s for work I hope to sell someday. 🙂 And I’ve gotten fairly good at writing it the way I want it the first time off the fingers.

      I do want to make it clear that I do not edit myself as I draft. I find that self editing in the drafting stage is like too much metamucil, ya know? The faster I write, the better my first draft. And if I edit, there is no first draft.

    • Tomica says:


      Cluttered sentences are when we use an overabundance of unnecessary words. Get the point across without so much verbiage. When you write and have someone else edit they take out the unnecessary words. That’s what’s known as cluttered sentences. It’s all a matter of perspective. I don’t worry about it when I write but when I edit I “clean up” my sentences. I don’t understand how this is forced, it’s a part of the editing process.

      • Tomica says:

        BTW! Personal blogs are just that unless as Pamela stated you’re going through the process of trying to get an agent. They do google you and look closely at your writing. But free expression in all forms is welcome. This was in reference to writing a book.

  4. Andrea says:

    Yes I do. And sometimes it is on purpose. And other times I go back and fix it! Thanks!

  5. susiekline says:

    I’ve found Twitter to be a great way to learn how to edit my writing! You have to weed out the unnecessary and flowery writing if you want to communicate in 140 characters!

    xo Susie

  6. Christina says:

    Steven King’s “On Writing” is the single best read of the last 6 months for me. It was a serious memory refresher for me and while I don’t write fiction, it gave me new insight on how I (as a reader) can give better critical feedback to those who do. I also have to admit – it made me think that maybe, possibly, perhaps in the distant future when I have more than 5 minutes a day to myself, I might even try my hand at it again.

    But oh, dialogue. You bastard.

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