One new habit I’ve nurtured after using iA Writer Pro is spending more effort to edit a finished piece of writing. It’s challenging for writers to view their crafts from different perspective since they’re familiar with their own works, but iA Writer Pro helps me to become a better editor with Syntax Control.
The writing process generally has five stages — prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing — with editing demands the largest effort as you need to reread your writing to spot typo and remove useless sentences.
Syntax Control highlights sentences, adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs, conjunctions, and prepositions in text so the writer can process the writing in chunks. This approach lifts the cognitive burden from the writer as they can see the same writing with different perspective as opposed having to concentrate digesting the piece of writing as a different work.
The obvious use of syntax is dimming the rest of text and focus the sentence at the same position with sentence syntax. I turn on this syntax whenever I’m writing, or rewriting a draft.
The rest of syntaxes are useful when you’re in editing stage. What should we do with these highlighted text? What does it mean to remove weak verbs? Should I remove those adverbs?
These are the lessons I’ve learned from reading Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark and Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. They’re the books that every writer must read. You don’t have to be an aspiring novelist to read these books — being an effective writer is an essential skill that everyone should learn.
Here is the order of syntaxes I choose to highlight in editing stage. I run the order once to remove part of speech that are considered as branches and twigs. I usually run the sequence another time to polish the edited version to make sure no more typo are left.
The road to hell is paved with adverbs. — Stephen King
Sentences with a lot of adverbs sound sophisticated, but in fact, they’re just noises. You can remove most of the adverbs without affecting the sentence’s meaning. There are two type of adverbs you should consider removing:
- Adverbs that intensify instead of modify the verb: Eg. He is completely infatuated by the demeanor beauty of that girl.
- Adverbs that contain the same meaning as the verb: Eg. The smiling murderer creeps silently towards the victim.
Removing adverbs forces you to come up with a compact sentence. You’ll discover that sentences decorated with frivolous adverbs are similar to each other. Vary sentence pattern by coming up with a different way to present your ideas.
Not sure whether the adverb is important? Try to remove it and read the sentence. If it doesn’t change the meaning of your prose, it’s safe to remove these adverbs.
Avoid using vague adjectives. Lazy writers use adjective to describe a cold weather. But, you can show character’s trembling hands, pale lips, and shivering under the bridge beside the frozen river. Show, don’t tell.
Remove adjectives that contain the same meaning as the nouns. There is no need to mention cold with ice, but you can use hot ice in your sentence.
A lot of adjectives in a sentence or paragraph is the sign of vague sentence. Tear apart the sentence to elaborate those adjectives. You might have a clear picture of the story in your mind, but readers can’t see the same picture unless you show it. When in doubt, be specific.
Remove prepositional phrases that state the obvious: in the story, in the article, in the movie, in the city.
I have a bad habit to attach of to the nouns, such as the setting of the movie, instead of using the possessive form, such as movie’s setting. Rewriting these of prepositions creates compact and clear sentence.
Sentences ending with prepositions create awful reading pace. Is it always bad to end sentence with preposition? No, but you can rewrite it so readers can smoothly finish the writing from beginning to the end.
Once I’ve cleared the obvious, I start to remove the part that doesn’t contribute to the main ideas by highlighting conjunction. Conjunction is used to connect two related ideas, or contradict different ideas. But overusing conjunctions may cause readers to experience difficulty discerning your meaning.
I try to avoid series of conjunctions by mixing the sentence patterns. Be brief, concise, and clear to form a rest stop, but consider to write a long sentence when you believe the readers has taken enough rest — as jogging and sprinting are great workout — like this sentence you’ve read.
I also use this syntax to vary the sentence patterns. Discovering two similar sentence patterns positioned close to each other means I need to rearrange the sentence or rewrite them to create a nice reading pace for readers.
There is no boring topics, there is only boring writers. Repeating the same verb within a paragraph bores the readers and creates a less memorable sentence. Whenever I discover a same verb are used a couple of times inside a paragraph, I’ll use Thesaurus or Terminology to come up with more variation. Not only you can avoid boring sentence with this approach, you also help readers by creating a more memorable sentence.
There are two type of nouns: concrete and abstract. The point to review the nouns you’ve written is to identify abstract nouns that hide the active verbs. Take a look at the following example:
You should take this opportunity into consideration.
The consideration is the abstract noun. We can rewrite the sentence into:
You should consider his offer.
Unlike the rest of syntaxes where the occurrence count is low, I find that nouns are the trickiest part because they fill the large part of writing. But whenever you can, try to find the abstract nouns and rewrite them.
I have mentioned the tips above as rules, but what makes writing fascinating is there is no writing rules. The point of sharing them as tips is to provide you with a picture of how I use Syntax Control for proofreading.
Syntax Control is a powerful feature to help writers viewing their writing in different perspective. If you’re a writer, you must try it for your next piece of writing.