- "Do not explain too much."
- Let your reader infer what you mean from your word choice and tone. If the character is being sarcastic, make the dialogue show that instead of pointing out "he said sarcastically." Set up the scene and allow the reader to input their own imagination and intelligence into the reading.
- "Do not construct awkward adverbs."
- Just because many words can be made into adverbs by adding -ly doesn't mean they should be. Tiredly? Failingly? It might be cool to make up these words, but they can be confusing and can tangle up the reader. It can make your sentence a stop-and-go process as the reader tries to interpret the new word. Instead, use already-established wording to get your point across.
- "Make sure the reader knows who is speaking."
- If there is a long section of dialogue, make sure you occasionally point out who is speaking. Even if your line spacing and indentations make the dialogue clear to you, your audience might get sidetracked by an idea and lose track of who was talking when. Even if they keep their focus, it is better to keep their attention on the scene itself instead of trying to figure out who said line #15.
- "Avoid fancy words."
- Throwing one or two in there isn't a crime, but if you use too many of them, your reader will start to make negative assumptions about you. You will come across as either pompous and big-headed or as an idiot trying to make himself look intelligent. Neither of these outcomes are good for your reputation or for your story. Instead, keep the language clear and concise.
- "Do not use dialect unless your ear is good."
- If you want to use a dialect in your story, make sure you know it well. Do your research and study the nuances of the speech. Know it inside and out so that when you go to write it, you can hear in your head exactly how a native would express themselves. Also, think carefully about how to write the words out. Have an outsider read over your dialogue to ensure that they are able to interpret your meaning from your spelling. One more important consideration: keep it consistent. Your spelling must match every time a particular word comes up.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Finding Your Style, #3
Tips #11-15 from Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, with my own commentary: