Saturday, July 2, 2011

Article #156 Watch Your Words

Here’s more suggestions for editing your biography AFTER you’ve written your rough draft. Take a critical look at your sentence structures to add variety and interest to your life story or family history. Do you start every sentence with a noun? i.e. I grew up… he remember or grandpa liked…etc.?

Vary your sentences with a beginning clause and use other descriptors of yourself. i.e. Growing up in a ghost town in rural Utah as a YOUNG GIRL, I learned to love playing outdoors. Also vary the length of your sentences and avoid repetition of the same words. It was fun to be a TOMBOY. Playing outside near old deserted mines, climbing trees and building forts filled many a pleasant summer day for me. Compare that with…I was a tomboy, and I liked to play outside. That’s just boring.

Don’t make your paragraphs too long. Four to seven sentences are plenty. Your readers can become tired and lose track of your storyline if your paragraphs run on too long. Make them interesting, but short and concise. You may need outside help with this. Someone you trust to read and edit what you have written with the focus on making it more to the point and not beating around the bush.

Use antecedents (he, she, they, etc.) carefully as your reader can easily get confused. i.e. She threw it out with the bath water. Who is she and what is it? You don’t want to lose your reader or confuse them.

Avoid repetition of the same word. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to find words that are different. i.e. It was nice day outside when we had a nice picnic…NICE could also mean warm, quiet, pleasant, exciting, promising or a myriad of other things. Expand your vocabulary with other words, but avoid sounding pretentious. If plethora (a wide variety of choices) is not a word in your vocabulary, don’t suddenly use it in your history to describe some aspect of your life, especially if you don’t know the meaning of the word!

In writing about a biography, I also substitute the words: story, family history, manuscript to give variety to my sentences. This may sound very mechanical, but it can add polish to your writing. DON’T do this when you are first composing your rough draft, it’s an editing tool when you’re ready to refine, polish or improve your original manuscript written quickly and creatively.

I hope you'll consider writing your life story, it's never too late or early to do so...


  1. Useful tips .Thanks for sharing .

  2. These are all such excellent tips, Lin. I'm going to try to remember them. I wish I had you as my editor.

  3. I find myself writing about my life in my nature journal as I sit outside and memories come back...