The great pianist Vladimir Horowitz practiced the scales every day, even in his eighties. He wanted to continually master his craft so that he would be “be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.”
The same is true for us. Here are two skills you can master. Don’t worry about them as you write. Go back and look for them later.
First, we all know passive voice is usually a no-no. But recognizing it can be a trick. Here’s one easy way to catch a bunch. After you’ve drafted something, search for these:
You can probably rewrite 90% of these sentences in active voice. For example,
Weak: There is much to learn about the theology of dancing porpoises.
Better: We still have much to learn about the theology of dancing porpoises.
Weak: There are other people who are as good looking as I am.
Better: No one is as good looking as I am.
Weak: It is well known that a supernova of the sun would eliminate male pattern baldness.
Better: As we all know, a supernova of the sun would eliminate male pattern baldness.
Here’s another one you can easily search for and fix. Sentences using the pattern of “The reason is because . . .” are redundant, and redundancy drives me nuts and crazy. This is like saying, “The cause is the cause that . . .” We can do better. Consider these:
Weak: The reason is because Facebook is trying to suck all the DNA out of my body.
Better: The reason is that Facebook is sucking all the DNA out of my body.
Weak: The reason is because the dog ate my homework.
Better: That’s because I had to burn my homework to stay alive when I was stranded in the middle of a blizzard.
Weak: The reason is because Al Gore is so boring his code name as Vice President was “Al Gore.”
Better: You can identify Al Gore when he is in a room full of secret service agents because he’s the stiff one.*
Be like Vladimir. Practicing scales can seem tedious and below you. But it can be the gateway to art.
* Thanks to Al Gore and “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” for these two. www.npr.org/2013/02/16/172030420/al-gore-plays-not-my-job
Credits: Cianna Pixabay (porpoise); desimaxwell Pixabay (rock face)