Writing Styles

Some gems I picked up:

Use short sentences and short paragraphs.

Most sentences can be cut in half. Don’t be afraid to have a two-word or three-word sentences. Keep paragraphs to less than three sentences. White space is your reader’s friend.

Delete the word ‘that’

The word ‘that’ can be removed from your writing at least 90% of time. And it will instantly make your sentence stronger.
Example: “You believe that I’m lying, but I’m not,” change to “You believe I’m lying, but I’m not.”

Delete the words ‘I think’ and 'I felt'

It adds nothing, try removing it to strengthen your sentence. I felt is a telling word. We are in deep POV, inside your character's head looking out through her eyes.

Words ending in ‘ed’ can often make the sentence more immediate.
He limped, he jumped, he cried, she screamed.

Words ending in ‘ing’ are okay, but not quite as immediate. This is because you usually have to include the word ‘was’ in the sentence.

He was limping, he was jumping, he was crying, she was screaming.

Words ending in ‘ly’ should be avoided, if you can find something better to use. This is because they don’t ‘show’ but rather ‘tell’. 

You’re telling the reader what’s going on.

Lily was lovely. The weather was unseasonably warm. You want to ‘show’ your reader how Lily is lovely. ‘Show’ your reader that the weather is warm.

This doesn’t mean you should never use ‘ly’ ending words. Just be careful not to ‘tell’ with such words rather than ‘show’. Words like ‘wobbly’ and ‘curly’ could be very good choices. Example: Her legs were wobbly. Her curly chestnut hair bounced around her shoulders.

These choices aren’t too bad, but these would be better: Her legs wobbled. OR a mass of chestnut curls bounced around her shoulders as she walked into the room. Notice we’re back to ‘ed’ ending words?

 See how word choice can strengthen your sentences and ‘show’ your reader a more visual scene.

My Pet Peeve:

Writers using hyphens instead of em dash and en dash.
The en dash is longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash.

A hyphen (-) is used within a word. It separates the parts of a compound word: self-confidence, jet-lagged, work-in-progress, pitch-dark, up-to-date, low-key.

An en dash (–) connects numbers and words. And usually in a range, meaning ‘to’: 1998–2001. Chapters 12–22. The score was 33–45 to All Blacks. The Sydney–Auckland flight, 8.00 p.m.–2.00 p.m.

An em dash (—) is used to mark an interruption eg. “What the—” It’s used to show a break in a sentence. In fiction the em dash appears with no space around it. It also is used for a sudden break in thought. “Can she—will she—go?”
It’s also used for amplifying or explaining and for setting off information within a sentence. Eg. “My husband—I mean, my ex-husband—will be there.”

An ellipsis (…) is used to show hesitation. Eg. “What I meant is…I don’t know how to say…”
Or a trailing off: “He’s your brother? I thought…”


Most Publication Houses have their house styles and would give you guidelines. I work with authors from one of the top five NY Publishing Houses which prefers no space around your…ellipsis and—em dashes. And it looks good on eBooks and paperbacks. The three dots…don’t have space in between or on either side. It is counted as one character. 


Writing Craft and Style Books on my shelf.


Using Hyphens


Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving as a single adjective before a noun:
a one-way street
chocolate-covered peanuts
well-known author


However, when compound modifiers come after a noun, they are not hyphenated:
The peanuts were chocolate covered.
The author was well known.
Use a hyphen with compound numbers:
forty-six
sixty-three
Our much-loved teacher was sixty-three years old.

Use a hyphen to avoid confusion or an awkward combination of letters:
re-sign a petition (vs. resign from a job)
semi-independent (but semiconscious)
shell-like (but childlike)
Use a hyphen with the prefixes ex- (meaning former), self-, all-; with the suffix -elect; between a prefix and a capitalized word; and with figures or letters:
ex-husband
self-assured
mid-September
all-inclusive
mayor-elect
anti-American
T-shirt
pre-Civil War
mid-1980s