Two hundred words are said to comprise eighty percent of all English sentences. Here is the list broken down into parts of speech. Why? Because you should know what weapons you are hurling at an unsuspecting public.
It’s been nigh many years when the nuns at my Catholic grammar school made me memorize parts of speech at the age of seven and had me parse sentences at the tender age of ten. Funny thing is that my children never had to struggle with such exercises. Instead they were immersed in “whole language” where they were encouraged to write and express themselves whether or not they knew how to wield words. This is such a stark contrast to me and my classmates having to copy compositions and types of letters out of books to learn how to write such things that it is no wonder that writers today use sentence fragments and feel perfectly comfortable using them. Continue reading The Craft of Writing: 200 Most Common Words As Parts of Speech
I took some creative license in the title because we all know there aren’t any rules in writing. There is just some incredibly strong advice. The “rules” vary widely from writer to writer and even from genre to genre.
But there do seem to a few general “rules” floating out there that were captured by a Guardian article where they printed the rules of Elmore Leonard, whose rules seem to be derigeur today.
1.) Never open a book with the weather
2.) Avoid Prologues
3.) Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4.) Never use an adverb to modify “said.”
5.) Keep your exclaimation points under control.
6.) Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”
7.) Use regional dialect and foreign words sparingly.
8.) Avoid detailed descriptions of characters
9.) Don’t go into great detail describing places and things
10.) Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.
Other general admonitions handed out to beginning writers are “show, not tell” which runs along thing lines of Leonard’s eight, ninth and tenth rule. Writers are encourage to “show” what is happening rather than telling or writing the story like a news report.
According to the study, Success with Style: Using Writing Style to Predict the Success of Novels, by Stony Brook University’s Vikas Gajingunte Ashok, Song Feng and Yejin Choi, whether or not a book will sell can be determined by several quantifiable factors.
Successful books utilized a high percentage of nouns and adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, determiners and adjectives. They found that successful books made great use of conjunctions to join sentences (“and” or “but”) and prepositions than less successful books.
Less successful books had a higher percentage of verbs, adverbs, and foreign words. Such books also relied heavily on clichés, extreme and negative words. Less successful books also rely on dull verbs that describe direct action, such as “took,” “promised” and “cried,” while more successful books use more verbs that describe thought-processing, such as “recognized” and “remembered.”Continue reading The Craft of Writing: Lexical Density and You