One Idea Per Sentence

We all do it. We rush through our first draft, writing all higgly piggly whatever comes into our head. Then when we re-read what we wrote we are shocked to discover our ideas are not as clear as we remembered them being. This is where we go through our manuscript and figure out what we were thinking when we wrote that complex, compound sentence. At the heart of the matter there is nothing wrong with a complex, compound sentence, but it has to be done with one singular idea at the heart of it. So simple test, does the sentence express one clear idea? If yes, we improve the grammar and tension; if no, we break out each idea into a separate sentence. 

Here is an example from my own work and how I broke it up to make the ideas more clear. 

So if one cell gets wiped out, the next cell only knows who to target, but because they can’t be sure of the crimes committed, so they just warn whomever.

Out of context, I have no idea what this means. In context, I'm a little bit clearer, but not much. No doubt about it, this sentence doesn't have one singular idea behind it. In context, we are discussing the structure of a criminal organization. I have to dispense this information in a clearer way.  First things first, "so" is on the list of overused words. It has to go. Now we are left with:

If once cells gets wiped out, the next cell only knows who to target, but because they can't be sure of the crimes committed, so they just warn whomever.

Let's break this into two sentences and see if breaking the concepts up, I can clarify what I meant.

If once cell gets wiped out, the next cell only knows who to target. Because they can't be sure of the crimes committed (by the other cell), they just warn whomever.

By breaking it up into two sentences, it lets me know where the missing information was, so I added it in the parenthesis. Now, I read that second sentence and I realize, I really, really, really squirreled when I wrote it. This isn't what I meant whatsoever. No I fix the second sentence into something that makes sense:

If one cell gets wiped out, then the next cell only knows who to target. Because they can't be sure of the crimes committed by the other cell, they can't roll over and damage their organization.

 This kind of makes sense, and I will do a prose work-over later to make sure this isn't just an information dump.

Try this on all over your sentences that don't make sense, and see if breaking it into component parts helps to clarify things.

Comments

Popular Posts