Friday, January 12, 2018

Five Minute Friday: SIMPLIFY


Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is SIMPLIFY.




In my job as a writing instructor, I often advise students to simplify their sentences.

Sometimes inexperienced writers think that they have to sound formal and sophisticated, so they write sentences like this:

The intimidation felt by the students results in a tendency toward expressing ideas in overly flowery prose.

So I ask them to look at the basic core of the sentence -- its subject and its verb -- and ask themselves, "Who is doing what in this sentence?"

In the sentence above, INTIMIDATION (the subject) RESULTS (the verb) in a tendency toward expressing. Uh ... that's kind of confusing and abstract. Have you ever seen intimidation result in a tendency toward expressing? Kind of hard to visualize, isn't it?

So I suggest that they rewrite the sentence by focusing on who is actually doing something in the sentence. The revision might look like this:

When students lack confidence, they often write in overly flowery prose.

Ah... that's better! Who's doing something? Students. And what are they doing? They're lacking confidence and writing in flowery prose. I can visualize that: an intimidated student sitting hesitantly at her desk, thesaurus at her side, trying to make her writing sound sophisticated.

The second sentence is simpler, clearer, and more direct. The reader doesn't have to wade through a lot of abstract words to find that core idea.

Maybe it might be a good idea, now and then, to step back and ask ourselves what our simplified sentences are. What are our core ideas: the things that, when we get rid of all the extraneous padding, remain true and fundamental to our lives? Here are just a few that come to mind immediately for me:

"God made me and loves me."

"I'm called to be a wife and a mom of two special-needs kids."

"God's mercies are new every morning."

Sounds pretty simple, but maybe it's enough to keep me going for a while.




22 comments:

  1. "What are our core ideas: the things that, when we get rid of all the extraneous padding, remain true and fundamental to our lives?"
    Great question! and sometimes we have no idea just how much extraneous padding we've picked up over the years. Padding makes us comfortable. I don't like removing my comfort.
    Thanks for this post! I will be thinking about this for a while.
    Your neighbor at FMF.

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    1. Thank you so much, Vicki - glad this spoke to you, and great to have you here today.

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  2. Powerful point Jeannie. Simple truth to guide our being. Have a great weekend! Visiting from END, Julie

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Julie - hope your weekend is good, too.

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  3. I really like the title, Jeannie. Ironically, to simplify and clarify is intimidating in and of itself, as critical as it is, because it’s actually an act of discipline that comes down to honesty so much of the time. Overly flower prose is much like overly flowery life. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. So true, isn't it, Grace: maybe we pad our lives for the same reason we pad our sentences, because we think the simple truth can't be quite enough OR we can't face it. But God can help us do that. I appreciate your reading and commenting today - take care!

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  4. Hi Jeannie! Thanks so much for this quick and easy lesson on simplifying sentences and how powerful it can be in communicating our message. I really appreciate the thought and want to go back through my writing and see how I can streamline things. I like this take on it!! #8 today at FMF

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    1. Thanks, Amy - glad you liked it. I think it's a helpful tip for me too. It's good to have you here today.

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  5. What a great simple lesson that all of us writers can learn from. Thanks!

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    1. You're welcome, Tara. Have a great day & weekend!

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  6. Agree totally. Long winded run on totally crazy sentences don't do it for me. lol :) I try to keep my writing clear and simple. Great take on simplify.
    Blessings
    Janis
    #54

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    1. Thanks, Janis! It's good having you here today.

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  7. Your first example sentence had me going into editor mode and reaching for my red pen! Great take on the word prompt this week. Simplifying our sentences - stripping life down to the fundamentals - is a great exercise for all of us as we begin 2018. May the year ahead be filled with God’s richest blessings for you and yours.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Susan. Glad you stopped by today!

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  8. Getting down to core ideas is great advice, Jeannie, for writing and in faith. I should do more of that. (Which I could have written: "In my own existence I would do well to endeavor to abide by your instruction.")

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    1. The process involved in reading your comments always results in positive emotions for myself, Tim. Thanks!!

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  9. Oh Jeannie, I imagine you are the most dear writing teacher. How lovely to have you instruct and with care show that the truth, the bones of it all is what matters.
    "What are our core ideas: the things that, when we get rid of all the extraneous padding, remain true and fundamental to our lives?"
    I'm writing this out.
    Have a wonderful week!

    Visiting from #82 today.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelly -- I always appreciate when you stop by. Glad this spoke to you.

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  10. You're a good teacher, Jeannie.

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    1. Thank you Andrew. Always a pleasure, blessing, honour to have you here.

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  11. Thanks Jeannie! Simple, yet profound and challenging. And I'm so glad that we bumped into each other the other day. You always encourage and inspire me. Thanks again.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sue. And I'm glad I ran into you as well; it had been awhile! As I said to Rich afterward, "Sue is one of those (rare) people that you always feel in a better mood after you've talked with them."

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