How to Edit a Sentence
I’ve suggested that it’s best to write first and edit later. But for many people, editing can be as intimidating as writing. So let’s edit a sentence together, shall we, and see if the process is as hazardous as we fear.
I got on my bicycle, taking my lunch to school, built in the 1970s.
Lots of room for improvement here. What is the main thing that’s happening anyway? Am I getting or taking or building or all three?
Taking my lunch to school, I got on my bicycle, built in the 1970s.
Okay, so I’m going. The sentence emphasizes the main verb now, but it makes the bicycle seem very old.
Taking my lunch, I got on my bicycle, heading to school, built in the 1970s.
That makes it more likely that the school is old, not the bicycle, but let’s sharpen our point.
Taking my lunch, I got on my bicycle, heading to school, which was built in the 1970s.
Taking, heading… which verb is more important? What’s the main action in the sentence? I need to make my actions as clear as we can. Three verbs reside in one sentence, but I resolve that only one action shall rule.
Taking my lunch, I got on my bicycle and headed to school, which was built in the 1970s.
Much better. Now got and headed are parallel, and the focus is on me. I like that focus. But the verb taking seems a little weak here. Meaning, the verb taking doesn’t accurately describe what I did with my lunch that morning.
Grabbing my lunch, I got on my bicycle and headed to school, which was built in the 1970s.
Neither does the verb got. I mean, it seems a little weak too. It doesn’t accurately describe what I did with my bicycle that morning.
Grabbing my lunch, I climbed on my bicycle and headed to school, which was built in the 1970s.
That is it. As you can see the editing process is done in cycles. It can take considerable time (sometimes just as much as the writing), but it is definitely worth it.
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