Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Virtues of Reading Your Writing Aloud, Part 4: Grace


When I talk about earning grace, I’m not making any biblical allusion, but I am referring to a writing attribute that most people find difficult attaining in their first draft. Professor Joseph M. Williams uses the word grace in the subtitle of his book Style, which I reviewed in an earlier WORDS ON THE LINE post. First-draft thinking often looks like this:

A worst-case scenario, which we would want to avoid to ensure that we meet the deadline since our proposal will not be accepted after the due date, would require that the manager to whom we assigned the project work overtime.


The awkwardness in this sentence comes from at least three problems:

  • The 24-word distance between the subject worst-case scenario and verb would require. I have said a few times in this blog and in my book The Art of E-mail Writing that readers need to connect subjects and verbs closely.
  • The circular, repetitive thinking behind to ensure that we meet the deadline since our proposal will not be accepted after the due date.
  • The awkwardness of to whom, which we should avoid whenever possible.

Reading aloud would have detected these issues and prompted a rewrite like the one below:

A worst-case scenario would require the assigned project manager to work overtime, but falling behind schedule would jeopardize submitting our proposal by the due date.

Read your sentences aloud to create a graceful style.




Books by Philip Vassallo

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