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Crafting Flow

Anonymous asked: “Something I always do in my writing is I cut off my sentences with a dash, like ‘she couldn’t breathe-’ but its starting to get too repetitive. Helps?”

Cutting your sentences off regularly with a dash is fine to do in early drafts, especially when you are just trying to get your thoughts and the feelings you hope for down on the page, however when you are at the stage during editing where you want to be paying attention to how you craft sentence structure, there are a few things you’ll need to look for. 

First, a sentence that is cut off with a dash will be impactful if there is one of them. If you have half a dozen of them on a page, it may not have the same sense of gravitas you’d hoped for. This goes for any interesting kind of punctuation including dashes (-), ellipses (…), parentheses, semi-colons (;), colons (:), and exclamation points (!).  One is enough. 

Outside of periods, question marks, and commas, these forms of punctuation require extra attention so use them sparingly. Overuse will quickly become a distraction from your work and really the last thing you want is for someone to be distracted by something so menial as punctuation. 

Another thing I wanted to talk about too, is creating “flow” with your sentences. If you’re writing with a lot of dashes, I think there might be a good chance that the thing that is actually bothering you is lack of flow. Flow is created partially through varying sentence structure and length. It means intermixing short sentences with lengthier sentences. It’s a good technique to keep readers engaged, because believe it of not, having too many short sentences, one after the next, actually will tire out a reader. Too many long sentences in a row will have the same effect. While this might sound like a strange thing to do, there’s actually a very good chance that you do this naturally in your own writing. If there’s a piece that’s feeling particularly clunky or frustrating, definitely pay attention to how the sentences are structured. 

All of these things are kind of small details – touch ups for the later-stage drafts. These aren’t things I’d necessarily worry about in early drafts, but something to keep in mind for later.

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