Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There-There, Beware!

Every writer has his or her own writing style. I usually edit as I write, and then go back and omit words as I try to write tighter. I am amazed at how many times I trip over 'there'. Compare the two paragraphs and tell me what you think.

Paragraph 1.

There were so many school cancellations scrolling all day across the bottom of the TV when I awoke before dawn. There were animal tracks in the snow that led under the shed where I think a raccoon has made its den, so I put out a bowl of water. There was less snowfall in our area than forecasted, so we went to the mall to walk. There was a rack of marked down sweaters at Macy's, and I bought one with my gift card. There was a good movie on TV when we returned home. There was plenty to do on this fun day off school.

There-there! Good writers know that action verbs propel their writing and passive verbs such as is/are/were drag the story down. I was once told that using the word there is a direct route to passive verbs and boring writing, so I try to avoid the word, there.

The first paragraph conveys the messages, but the second paragraph seems less bland. The difference is like eating a plain glazed donut compared to one with swirls and sprinkles. (Yes, snow and winter make me crave carbs.)

Paragraph 2.

The TV news station should have listed the schools that were open instead of closed. The cancellation list started scrolling across the bottom of the TV at 4:30 a.m. when I spied animal footprints in the snow. I tracked them under the shed where I suspect a fat raccoon is holed up for the winter, so I put out a bowl of fresh
water. The meterologist was wrong again; our area received a scant two inches of snow, so we piled into the car and drove to the mall. I spied a rack of sweaters at Macy's reduced 70% and I had to have the bluish-green one. Speed walking and spending my gift card at the mall, then watching a TV movie made for a fun snow day.

11 comments:

Bookie said...

#2 definitely better....so are you out of school again today due to cold...that is what is happening here...FRIGID here....but computer issues make me hot under the collar...:)

Beth M. Wood said...

So true! And for the Love of God, please know the difference between THERE, THEIR and THEY'RE!!!
I edit as I write, too, but try not to let it stop me from getting the thoughts out of my head, and onto the paper. For me, if I look too hard while I'm writing, it messes up my train of thought.
Sounds like a good snow day!

irishoma said...

Yep, #2 flows better. I get tripped up with there as well. Was is another one I like to overuse.

We got five inches of snow in St. Peters (Michael measured with a ruler). Both kiddos are back in school today.

Linda O'Connell said...

Streets okay and school open today. I know how frustrating these computers can make a person. Oh how I know! Stay warm.

Linda O'Connell said...

Beth, oh yeah that is one of my pet peeves too, theiri, there, they're, and also too/to.

Linda O'Connell said...

Donna, back to work today and actually had a great day. Boston friends getting two feet!!!

Lynn said...

#2 of course. I trip over tense - I am in present tense, then go to past tense and back to present tense. I don't edit when I write - all that work comes after the fact!

Tammy said...

Now THERE'S some great advice!!! ;)

Sioux Roslawski said...

There is something in your post--there by the end, I think--that makes me contemplate my own writing habits. True, there's nothing more boring than writing that limps along; the words just stand there, with no punch. However, there are times when "there" is almost unavoidable. ("There Count": 6)

Susan said...

Paragraph #2 is obviously the better of the two. So there! Susan

Julia said...

You have inadvertently given me a teaching tool here. But not for reasons you might think: my city students have real struggles using the contraction "It's" instead of "There." They say things like, "It's my car in the lot," when they are pointing to their car. It feels like it's bigger than just breaking a bad habit. It makes sense to them to point to the thing, instead of the location of the thing. Maybe the trick is just to teach them to eliminate the word all together?