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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Editing tips - Before you go

Many writers – beginners and published – overuse the word ‘before’.

Storytelling or narrative should flow with ease and contain its own internal logic. People act and react. Conflict begs for a response, depending on the characters involved. The sequence of actions should be logical, too.

An example:
He closed the window before he left.
That’s okay, I suppose. Though why it couldn’t have been written as:
He closed the window and then left.

Another example:
Before he opened the drawer, he smiled.
That’s illogical in the chronological sense. Often we don’t see the character then opening the drawer – it’s just open. Better to write:
He smiled and then opened the drawer.
Logical sequence restored. Otherwise, we’re being told about an action out of sequence. The revised version shows us the actions in the logical order.

The large woman picked up a rag before reaching for the kettle. “Take the children back to their ward,” she said. “They still may have time to have their evening meal before they go to bed. See to it they have their uniforms returned and store their clothing.”
“Yes, sir.” She curtsied before reaching toward the children.

Maybe: The large woman picked up a rag, which she used on the handle to lift the kettle...
‘Before they go to bed’ is fine.
She curtsied and then reached toward the children.

So, before you dive in and use that word, think before you type!


Charliann Roberts said...

Thanks for another good tip. This one is difficult to remember when we're typing away. Perhaps we're more likely to see them when editing!

Nik said...

Sorry I haven't provided any more lately, I've been busy editing!