University of Iowa

Revising Sentences for Impact

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

Most writers want to write sentences that are clear and that communicate their intended meaning well. Certainly, that’s what editors look for. This doesn’t mean that we must write in the same style, but the sentences we create should be clear and have a strong impact on the reader. Much of a writer’s creativity lies in his or her talent at choosing and arranging words imaginatively. But much of your style also depends on some technicalities about what kind of word forms you choose and where you put them in your sentences. This workshop will focus primarily on those technicalities—not so much choosing the right words, but choosing the right word forms and putting them in your sentences where you get the most “bang for your buck,” so to speak. This means placing the most important words in the most powerful positions in the sentence, weeding out weak function words, emphasizing active verbs, and so forth. This is mostly part of the revising and editing process more than the drafting process. What we’ll focus on is what you do after the ideas have flowed onto paper or the computer screen. We’ll be looking at how to chip away the extraneous material to reveal the beautiful, shining sentence that packs a punch. (Just to be clear—we will be talking about revision at the sentence level; we won’t be addressing overall organization.) Participants don’t need to be grammar experts, but a basic understanding of a sentence’s subject-verb-object structure will be helpful.