By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine
Some of you closer to my age may remember the beginning reader book, Dick and Jane:Fun with Dick and Jane. It was written in a simple format for us to learn. On one page would be the words: See Dick Run; another page you would see Jane likes Dick, Dick likes Jane. Then on a page you would have dialogue.
One I remember is Dick flying a kite. “Look,” said Dick.
“See it go. See it go up.”
Definitely not complex sentences! But as writers, don’t we sometimes write complex sentences?
Don’t we use too many words and choose big words to impress our readers. This makes the reader’s brain, not to mention our own, process a lot of information–plus makes us tired. Did you know some of this isn’t necessary to tell our story?
If you go back to the books they used to teach us to read you see short, concise, and to the point sentences. We were given words to picture and understand the story without overloading the sentences with words not needed.
The other day, I noticed someone used the word “And” to begin a sentence and the word “But” to do the same. As I reread those sentences I noticed they were shorter, tighter, and simpler. The flow of the story was smooth and you didn’t have to work hard to understand what they said.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a paragraph, whether in a document or a book, and had to stop and reread it. Sometimes I’ve had to reread it several times to grasp the meaning of the paragraph. It had too many words; they had made it complex and it didn’t convey what they were trying to get across. I had to literally dissect the sentences to comprehend what they were trying to tell us. That is not an enjoyable read.
You can make your reader happy when you take their hand and lead them through your words and they understand them. Then they will want to read more of what you write. As writers maybe we should look for those two line sentences we write. Perhaps we could rewrite those shorter, tighter and maybe a little more simple.