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Friday, March 11, 2016

Sin and Syntax - how to craft wickedly effective prose (cont)

This week I'm sharing some bits with you from one of my favorite writing books: Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale.

Today I'm going to finish up with Hale's chapter on adverbs...

The Bones: "Adverbs are more promiscuous than adjectives" Hale says, and "express either Time (immediately, now, soon), Place (here, there, and everywhere), Manner (boldly, nonchalantly, purposefully), or Degree (absolutely, quite, very). Adverbs tell the reader when, where, how, and how much.

The Flesh: Hale says "Adverbs are crashers in the syntax house party." Most of the time, they can be deleted...

Cardinal Sins: ...especially when all they do is repeat the meaning of the verb like "screeched loudly." 

Carnal Pleasures: Here Hale offers a witty bit of advertising from the Bonny Doon winery, promoting its Bloody Good Red:

"...astonishingly full-bodied, w/good, firm backbone yet still rather fleshy, esp. about the middle...great legs and a huge and utterly complete nose...excruciatingly long & dramatic finish...all in all I must admit that it really was bloody goo..."

There are many more chapters in the book, including Voice, Lyricism, Melody, and Rhythm, and every page is brimming with amazing examples of writers getting it right, and others failing in epic fashion. I return to this book every so often because not only is it a feast of words and lessons, it's a reminder that it's okay to break all those rules once you know them - as long as you do so brilliantly.

Do you have any writing books you turn to again and again?


Liz A. said...

I don't read too many writing books. Which is probably readily apparent.

Liza said...

I need to check this book out. Thanks!