Novak (novak) wrote,

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Random: A Random Note on Writing from Barnes that Seemed Sensible

One of the things you should try to avoid is having sentences where the verb is the verb "to be." This can lead to passive constructions -- very naughty! -- or just sentences that are confusing or long. Sometimes you write an "X is Y" sentence just to get the thought out, but you should go back and rewrite it. The occasion for this e-mail is what seemed to me to be a clear case of this. [Sometimes "to be" sentences are the best way. :)]

I wrote first

"A low angelology is a doctrine [that] Tertullian insists upon even while he still actively criticizes Christians who teach other otherwise."

Then I looked at it, and rewrote it.

"Tertullian insists upon a low angelology even while he still actively criticizes Christians who teach other otherwise."

Not an overwhelming improvement, perhaps, but I think that it makes the sentence less clunky in style and content: a better flow. I might rewrite it again, mostly because I'm not satisfied with the verb "insists," and I think one should be very careful about adverbs ("actively"). In your rewrite of an essay, you should cut 50% of your adverbs, and probably just slightly less than that of your adjectives. (Later in your career you can pump those percentages up higher.) Remember: getting the idea "out" on to a piece of paper is not the same thing as communicating it clearly and succinctly.

Tags: barnes, random, teachers, writing

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