Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Lately, a case of style versus aggravation has cropped up in a few pieces of work I have viewed: the "verbless" sentence.

I am undecided as to whether authors attempting this form of style are doing so because they are trying to eliminate passive verbs (which are not all bad, as some authors may believe) or if they are attempting to make the dialogue and the thoughts of a character more realistic.

Granted, using a dash of this technique provides an interesting variation, but to fold in an entire cupful of "verbless" sentences is a distraction.

An example of this type of structure would be utilized in a paragraph such as:

My word! No couth, that one. None at all. Rather a viper in starlet’s clothing. A heartless scoundrel. A gold digger.

In all truthfulness, an editor would probably leave this paragraph alone because it definitely works to tell the reader exactly what the character thinks of this heartless viper of a starlet. However, if the author used this type of sentence structure throughout the manuscript, what would then make this paragraph stand out?

In a sequence such as the one following, there isn’t anything particularly interesting going on that needs emphasis or style, and the lack of verbs make the thoughts tiresome:

The store? Why? Tomorrow. Yes. Tomorrow. Not today.

When an author decides to use a style technique such as verbless sentences, her edits should include a careful perusal of the manuscript to determine if the usages have turned from “style” to “aggravation for the reader.”

Happy editing.

1 comment:

  1. I think they can be good occasionally, but they can be overdone.