L=Look Away(Feb 13)

Here is a simple tip used by generations of writers.

If you’re not happy with a sentence, read it on the page. Then look away and try to repeat it, either out loud or in your head. Out loud is better.  Often the way that you say it while looking away is better than the way that you wrote it.

LEARN: Try the exercise with the passage below, an introduction to the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne from the Norton Anthology of American Literature. Do it one clause or sentence at a time, and notice where you vary:

“Above all, his theme was curiosity about the recesses of other men’s and women’s beings. About this theme he was always ambivalent, for he knew that his success as a writer depended upon his keen psychological analysis of people he met, while he could never forget that invasion of the sanctity of another’s personality may harden the heart even as it enriches the mind. He knew that there was ‘something of the hawkeye’ about him, and that the line was vague between prurient curiosity and legitimate artistic study of character. At his best, he was a master of psychological insight … “

USE: Use this technique on your next piece of writing.


Published by robanderik

We are long-time writers and editors, now living in the Middle East. Our idea is to create a series of tips to help others improve their writing and editing skills. Think of it as a lesson plan for ESL learners that combines the practical with the aspirational.

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