First off, if you haven’t heard of LitReactor and you’re a writer, get on it now and LEARN. These writers provide quick and dirty essays about writing that are brilliant. Today, I stumbled across Stephen Graham Jones’ “As I Lay Mostly Dying.” Jones challenges the use of the word as in writing. He calls it “clunky.” At first, I didn’t think I was going to agree, but his essay and examples made a believer of me. As does “clunk” up the writing because it jolts the reader out of the scene enough to have to imagine multiple things going on instead of surveying the scene’s or character’s entirety. With that being said, I decided to peruse my own novel and take out a few as spots that were weak. And like the last LitReactor article I applied to my own writing in a blog post here, I was very pleased with the results:
Before: When in reality, he appreciated the time spent out there casting a line and reeling in a slew of bluegill and catfish as the sun set on a day of work outside.
After: When in reality, he appreciated the time spent out there casting a line and reeling in a slew of bluegill and catfish against the backdrop of a sunset after a day of work outside.
In this example, I’m trying to paint a scene of experiencing the end of a work day. There’s many ways I could have described this and any of them are better than using as. I could have said “while soaking in the sunset,” or “during the setting sun” and what I finally chose”against the backdrop of a sunset.”
Before: “Alright, but you need to hurry. Dinner is almost done,” I called after him as I peered into the oven, aromas erupting.
After: “Alright, but you need to hurry. Dinner is almost done,” I called after him. The sweet herb aroma erupted from the oven, which was much more convincing than my hollering.
I tried a completely different sentence structure here and, again, it’s much stronger than before. I split the two actions I was linking together into two separate sentences and added more power to the second action.
Before: Tara responded to Mom’s attempt at understanding and reasoning, but there were times she would use Mom’s kindness as a way to manipulate a situation.
After: Tara responded to Mom’s attempt at understanding and reasoning, but there were times she would use Mom’s kindness to manipulate a situation.
Here, the phrase “as a way” was just unnecessary fluff and simply removing it was enough to tighten up the sentence!
Lesson of the day: Watch your “as.”