Sunday, March 29, 2009

Children Find Meaning in Old Family Tales

Many of you may know that I administrate a writing group on Yahoo. Recently, one of its members sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal (March 11, 2009, page D1) entitled: Life Stories: Children Find Meaning in Old Family Tales by Sue Shellenbarger.

As this article clearly supports my opinion on the value of sharing family stories, with permission from the author, it is reprinted here.

MARCH 11, 2009, 3:36 A.M. ET
Life Stories: Children Find Meaning in Old Family Tales
By Sue Shellenbarger

When C. Stephen Guyer's three children were growing up, he told them stories about how his grandfather, a banker, lost all in the 1930s, but didn't lose sight of what he valued most. In one of the darkest times, Mr. Guyer says, when his grandfather was nearly broke, he loaded his family into the car and took them to see family members in Canada. The message: "There are more important things in life than money," says Mr. Guyer, of Littleton, Colo.

The tale took on new relevance recently, when Mr. Guyer downsized to a small house from a more luxurious one. He was worried that his children, a daughter, 15, and twins, 22, would be upset. To his surprise, they weren't. Instead, their reaction echoed their great-grandfather's. "What they care about," Mr. Guyer says his children told him, "is how warm are the people in the house, how much of their heart is accessible."

As parents cut budgets, many are finding family stories have surprising power to help children through hard times. Storytelling experts say the phenomenon reflects a growing national interest in telling tales, evidenced by a rise in storytelling events and festivals. New research bears out the value of family stories, linking teens' knowledge of them to better behavior and mental health.

An Emory University study of 65 families with children ages 14 to 16 found kids' ability to retell parents' stories was linked to a lower rate of depression and anxiety and less acting-out of frustration or anger, says Robyn Fivush, a psychology professor. Knowing family stories "helps children put their own experience in perspective," Dr. Fivush says.

The trick is telling the stories in a way children can hear. We're not talking here about the kind of story that begins, "When I was a kid, I walked to school every day uphill both ways, barefoot in the snow." Instead, choose a story suited to your child's needs, and make eye contact to create "a personal experience," says Sherry Norfolk, chairman of the National Storytelling Network, a Jonesborough, Tenn., nonprofit. "You don't have to tell children what they should take from the story," she says. "They can intuitively understand what the moral is."

When Carla Freeman's daughter became anxious a few years ago about having to change schools, the Atlanta mother related her own childhood stories of switching to another school in her community. Her old friends dropped her and, at her new school, "I was kind of an oddball" at first, she told her daughter. But Ms. Freeman bounced back and made new friends. She credits the stories with helping her daughter, now 12, develop resiliency and the ability to "hold herself together" against challenges.

A touch of humor helps. At Scott Prengle's Dallas home, his son Bobby, 17, has heard tales about his grandfather growing up in times so hard that his hungry schoolmates would devour apple cores left over from his lunch. As Bobby tapped a nearly empty salad-dressing bottle over his salad at dinner one evening, Scott laughed and invited him to do as his grandfather did: Put water in the bottle and shake it up, to use every last drop. Scott says his father's frugal habits "drove us crazy, but the idea was that nothing went to waste."

While Bobby declined to water down his dressing, he says of his grandfather that "I follow in his footsteps" in other ways, saving paper clips and rubber bands. And when Scott recently trimmed the family budget, he thought he saw an echo of his late father in Bobby, in the way he calmly accepted the loss of his oft-used gym membership.

Even when you think your children aren't listening to your stories, Dr. Fivush says, they probably are. Thomas Pontes thought his children, 12, 14 and 16, shrugged off tales of his grandfather, an immigrant farmhand who worked his way up from living in a barn to owning a home. To Mr. Pontes, of Providence, R.I., the story shows "the kind of optimism you need to pick yourself up from a field somewhere tending cattle" to cross the Atlantic, fueled solely by hope.

But when I asked his daughter Katie, 16, about the stories, she not only remembered them, but said they've "helped me become more appreciative of my life and how easy things are for me." Even if kids don't seem to appreciate family stories, she says, in time they'll "realize just how important they are."

Ms. Shellenbarger, resident of Portland Oregon area, is the creator and writer of The Wall Street Journal’s “Work & Family” column for which she has received several awards. (See:

Thank you Ms. Shellenbarger.

Emily Aulicino
Portland, Oregon
©29 March 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Making History by Kim Pearson

Making History: How to remember, record, interpret, and share the events of your life by Kim Pearson, Primary Sources Books, an imprint of Wyatt-MacKenzie, Issaquah, WA ( ISBN: 978-1-032279-75-7. Copyright 2007. $24.95.

I do not usually review books, but when Kim sent me a copy, when several from my writing classes were interested in it, and as her idea of writing is similar to mine, I decided to mention it in my blog.

Many books have been written on the topic of writing one’s memoir. Formerly, there were the books for grandparents which asked basic questions about their lives, then came the books with the one-line topics. The latest generation of memoir writing books encompasses the reasons for writing, various topics, and suggested leads for those topics. Ms. Pearson’s book falls within the latter.

The book begins with excerpts from her writing class and from her own experiences. Although the book may start out a bit slow for some of us who have been involved in teaching such classes, there are many interesting stories which could give the reader ideas and activate the reader’s memories.

Making History is divided into sections: Why Tell Your Stories?, How to Tell Your Stories, and How Your Stories Fit into History with several chapters for each. She explains why she wrote the book and offers her sources (mostly Web sources) and some suggested reading.

Most of us understand that writing is therapeutic, although many genealogists wish to embellish their research by going beyond the dates and places of their ancestors. Many of us write to record those family stories and childhood memories for the future generations. Ms. Pearson gives ideas on how to deal with too much information as all of us have too little time to write all we really know about our lives and those of our ancestors.

From that point, Ms. Pearson divides her book into various sections (Economics & Politics, The Social Fabric, Wars & the International Scene, Technology & Science, Crime & Disaster, Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle Activities, and The Weird, Trivial & Hard-to-Classify) and offers a detailed timeline for each period. Timelines start in 1930 and most end in 1989 with a few ending earlier. However, the best part of her book ends each of those chapters with ideas on which people can write. Usually there are about a dozen paragraphs for each chapter like the following.

“Scan the events timelines. What sparks a memory? Is there an event listed that makes you think, ‘oh yea, I remember that’? If so, write about this event. How did you learn about it? Di you talk about it? With whom? Were you inspired to do something because of this event? Did this event change your life in any way? Change your thinking?” (p. 119)

All though the timelines are extensive, they are not, of course, all encompassing. Many of these events were probably overlooked in most of our lives, but one never knows what statement will trigger a memory. You can supplement these timelines by using the Internet, if needed.

I suggest using this book as a workbook; that is, one needs to mark it up, underlining and starring important topics and ideas as the book is read. Use post-it notes so you can return to relevant topics and suggestions.

I am pleased to see this quality of book for writing one’s memories, especially as I have used similar techniques in teaching students and know them to work. I have applied the same method of including detailed prompts in my own publication (See the icon on this blog at the right.) and would encourage any of you not to purchase any book on writing prompts unless there is more detail for each topic than just a line or two.

Emily Aulicino
© Mar 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Memories from a Photo

“Memoing” My Memories Topic 21:

Memories from a Photo

If you have not worked on your Timeline lately or cannot recall what else to add, try going through your old photos and jotting down events that happened around them. Hopefully, you have already written the names, locations, and dates on EVERY one of them! Your descendants would greatly appreciate that. If you are like me, you may do it in spurts! It took two broken ankles to get many of them done! I am not hoping to finish the job in the same way, however!

Often looking at the old photos, sharing them with your family, children or grandchildren, you start to recall why that photo was taken, the details of that trip, the wonderful times with those friends….

Choose a photo from your life or one of a family member and write about the circumstances around that photo; your thoughts and memories at that time. Take the time to reflect on how life was then, and possibly how it has changed. What were the people in the photo like; what are your fondest memories of them…?

Remember to include your photo with your computer or paper files.

Reminder: What other photos could you use to help add to your Timeline or stories?

Suggestion: This and the previous ideas are from my booklet "Memoing" My Memories which contains 130 similar prompts on a huge variety of subjects. This booklet is worth the value as it contains many ideas within each prompt. The sprial bound booklet is available by emailing me at:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kreative Blogger Award

Earline Hines Bradt at AncestralNotes has presented me with this award.

What a wonderful surprise. I'm very surprised and deeply humbled.

Thank you Earline!

Here are the instructions:
1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.
4. Link to those sites on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

Although this was difficult to decide, my list of nominees are:
1. The Photo Detective
2. Dear Myrtle
3. The Geneaholic
4. The Chart Chick
5. Forensic Genealogy Blog
7. The Practical Archivist
6. The Genetic Genealogist

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Neighborhood

Below is another excerpt from my booklet. As you can see, those I am posting here are not in order listed in the booklet, but are some random topics to give you the range of ideas and approaches to writing your childhood memories and family stories. This particular topic developed from a teaching strategy and was written in 2003. It is a wonderful subject for many, many stories, and some of my writing students have used it as an underlying theme for their entire memoirs. Even if you lived in several neighborhoods, this can section your life in to various units and allow you to write many memories within the time span, giving the reader an entire picture of your life.

"Memoing" My Memories Topic 8:

The Neighborhood

As we have discussed your childhood home/homes in Topic 4, let us focus on the neighborhood in general and the activities and the events surrounding it. No doubt this could result in countless stories, so we’ll start with a great brainstorming technique to give you the bases for future writings, as well.

If you lived in more than one home, pick one for now, but try this with all of them, if you can. A neighborhood could just be the block on which you lived or the few houses surrounding your rural home.

First, think back to what your neighborhood was like. Was it rural, urban, or suburban? Did you live in a large or small town, in the middle of the city or on the perimeter?

Who were the neighbors? Can you remember their names? Which houses were theirs?

Was there a unique member of your neighborhood...a kind person who asked you to do errands and tipped you enough for a candy bar or ice cream...a grouchy person whose yard often harbored your baseball or balsa wood airplane...the person whom no one knew well…? Was there a bully on the block? (Even if it was YOU!)

What games did you play in the street or yards with neighbor kids? What games differed from the summer through the winter? Where did you play—a vacant lot, the end of the street, a particular yard? Did everyone get along?

After thinking about these things, draw a map of your childhood street. Add some features unique to each house and the names of the people in the houses. Now choose an event centered on this area and write. Be certain to jot down other ideas on which to write later. There is no doubt many great stories to tell….

©Aulicino, Sept 2003

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writing Your First Memory

Up to now, I have covered various elements of the writing process and will continue do so, but mixed with topics which may be of interest to those who are writing their childhood memories and family stories. The topics either appear in my current booklet or will appear in my second volume. They will be selected at random and will not be in any chonrological order. Most people accomplish more by writing what motivates them at the time rather than starting at the beginning of their lives and continuing to the present.

These topics are based on the idea that you are keeping a Timeline of your life and make reference to it periodically. There will be other reminders, as well.

I will not be posting a vast amount of my booklet, but only samples. Therefore, if you are interested in purchasing my booklet, please email me at:

“Memoing” My Memories Topic 1:

Writing Your First Memory

A bit of a double entendre here! Yes, this is your first writing piece and it will (for now) be your very first memory. Who knows how much more you will recall as we push forward!

Think back to your earliest days. You must honestly choose your earliest memory. YOUR memory…not an event your parents described to you or you recall from an old photo...unless you REALLY REMEMBER being there. In your mind, you have to seek the memory of actually being present. This may only be a fleeting memory…not long, but you can write about the circumstances around it.

Don't be alarmed that your first conscious memory may be later than others. I know some VERY intelligent people whose memories go back to age five or six only. There are a few who can remember back to age three, but, seemingly, not the majority.

You will get a chance to write about earlier events that your parents, friends or relatives have helped you remember all these years, but for now...the oldest memory YOU can recall.

Return to your Timeline and write this memory in the appropriate year. You may have to base the year on the location, who was present with you, what you wore, the season, the approximate age of the people around you, etc. Get as detailed as you can, but if you haven't the time, make notes in your file first...add as you recall the incident.

©aulicino, 6 Feb 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Take Time to Read Your Story Aloud

Edit Is a Four Letter Word, con't

The letter T is for:

Take time to read your story aloud

Reading your story aloud helps your writing flow with ease. When we write the words come silently from our brain. Often what we think we are writing and the clarity of it is not what our hand is doing. Our thoughts mask our actions. When we reread a story we have writing soon after it was composed, we often read what we intended to write. To us it may sound smooth, sensible, and clear. This is not always the case, and for this reason, we must read aloud and have others read our work aloud.

It is important to wait a few days or so after you have written your story to read it aloud, however. Waiting will help you find where your writing lacks smoothness and clarity. The same is true if you read it aloud at the various stages of editing. Your voice overrides what your brain intended to write, allowing you to read exactly what you did write.

Have others read your story as well. If you or another person stumbles in the reading, examine the sentence for clarity and flow.

Once you have decided that you are done, put the story aside for a few more days. Then return to it to see if it sounds as good as you had previously thought. Your readers and those great-great-grandchildren will appreciate your clarity.

There you have it: EDIT is a four letter word…one we can learn to love.

Educate yourself on grammar and punctuation rules.
Draft as many versions as needed for clarity.
Incorporate word and sentence variety.
Take time to read your story aloud.

Mary P., a student in my writing class once stated: We write for ourselves; we edit for others. This is so very true, and, as the purpose of writing is for others to read it, we must sharpen our editing skills.

Once you use these techniques I’ve outlined from Theodore Cheney’s book Getting the Words Right and those I have developed through my teaching, you will greatly improve not only your editing skills, but your writing, as well. When you edit with such focus that these methods require, you will begin to see your own personal writing style. A writing style evolves. Removing the excess and striving for clarity in your work, will allow you to recognize your style.

Writing Style will be a future topic.

Remember: Although editing is a difficult and lengthy task, you will develop skills that will improve your writing in the initial stages so editing will become easier. There is much detail here, so take one step at a time. Your readers will love you for the improvements, and you will be proud of your work.

©Aulicino 5 Dec 2008

Friday, January 23, 2009

Incorporate Word and Sentence Variety

Edit Is a Four Letter Word, con't

The letter I is for:

Incorporate word and sentence variety

“Variety is the spice of life” someone once said. Redundancy is quite the opposite, and if our lives held nothing new and exciting, they would be very boring. This is so very true of writing. We must strive for variety and not accept redundancy. Shake up your writing! Bring it to life with spice!

Word Variety:

To incorporate word variety, we must understand redundancy. Redundancy includes repetitiveness as well as excess, but it is useful for emphasis, for remembering something difficult, and for establishing a mood. Often we use more words than needed to express an idea, or we repeat ourselves unintentionally. Redundancy in oral presentations and in writing, unless needed for emphasis, is not a positive trait for an author. Using redundant phrases and words shows thinking errors, and does not ease the flow of your writing.

There are several types of redundancy, and the following situations often harbor unnecessary words that can be easily corrected.

1. Repetition of
....a. Pronouns (I, he, they, etc.)
....b. Boring verbs (is, was, had, got, etc.)
....c. Adjectives and qualifiers (really, so, a lot, fantastic, very, etc.)

2. Two words which indicate the same meaning (Tautology)*

3. More words than are needed (Pleonasm)

4. Phrases when a word would convey the same meaning

*The terminology is unimportant, but expanding your vocabulary is always important.

1. Repetition of Pronouns, boring verbs, and adjectives and qualifiers

We use the same vocabulary constantly. Often we write as we speak. It is much easier to say he did this or that; we went here or there. We are concentrating on getting ideas across to someone, but are not concerned with how we state those thoughts. We have all been taught not to say I over and over, so we do try to avoid that, but what about the other common pronouns? We don’t realize how often we use the same simple verbs or constantly say a lot, awesome, fantastic, etc. Do you every use a thesaurus?

....a. Pronouns
The easiest way to recognize our redundant vocabulary use is to circle all the pronouns in your story, and omit what you can by using names or reworking your sentences.

After Rob left the house, he stopped by Rachel’s to pick her up for the show before she left on her own.

Rob left the house in time to grab Rachel so they could ride together to the show.

Four pronouns were narrowed to one.

....b. Boring Verbs
(See the previous post: Edit by Rewording)

Word variety includes using exciting verbs rather than boring ones. Check your sentences for overused verbs that are forms of to be and exchange them for verbs which show action. Limit your use of common verbs such as had, have, get, take, etc. If necessary keep a list of the verbs you tend to use and some more exciting replacements for them.

To find these boring verbs in your writing, take a pen which differs in color from that you used to write and circle all the boring verbs. Then with another pen circle the non-boring verbs that you used more than two or three times. Now replace these verbs in a variety of ways.

You may substitute one verb for a better one.

Sam ran down the hill and came home before the storm.

Racing down the hill, Sam arrived before the storm.

You may restructure or combine your sentence to eliminate a verb.

Orin was late for school, and he was panting when he reached the room.

Panting, Orin entered the room just after the tardy bell.

....c. Adjectives and qualifiers
The over use of words which describe (adjectives) or limit a noun (qualifiers) are no different than any other redundant word: limit them; remove them; change them.

We really had a fantastic time with a lot of our friends. We always enjoy their company, and we always exchange a lot of gifts. What a fantastic night!

We had a wonderful time with our friends, enjoying their company and exchanging gifts. What a fantastic night!

In the revision, no word is repeated…except a.

2. Tautology, the error of saying essentially the same thing again in the same sentence
Many of these phrases are so blatantly used in our culture that we do not realize the inaccuracy.

Advanced forward
Future outlook
False facts
Few in number
Usual custom

He wrote his own autobiography.
Let us glance briefly at the facts.
The reason was because….5.

3. Pleonasm, having extra words in a sentence than can be deleted without changing the meaning or structure of the sentence

Deep puddles of water wrestled against….

Deep puddles wrestled against….

4. Phrases replaced by one word6.
The reason is because……….because
Based on the fact that………..because
In regard to…………………..about
Despite the fact that………….although
At this time…………………
In the very near future……….soon
Actual experience……………experience
Cancel out……………………cancel

Sentence Variety:

Sentence variety means every story needs to have sentences that vary in length and in structure. Reading short, choppy sentences does not allow good flow of ideas and events. Reading lengthy sentences gives the piece a pretentious air, makes it difficult to wade through the extraneous words. Either situation will not encourage your reader to continue through the story. A variety of short, simple sentences along with compound and complex sentences provides the diversity to keep your reader interested.

Short sentences are used to emphasis a point and to give impact to an idea. Compound sentences link together closely related ideas. Complex sentences show relationships between more important ideas over supporting ideas. Careful use and placement of the various types of sentences adds power to your writing.

Simple: He left yesterday.
Compound: He left yesterday, and he took nothing with him.
Complex: After leaving yesterday and taking nothing with him, I knew it was over.

Add details to improve the overall structure and to provide an opportunity for more exciting verbs. Do not have most of your sentences with the subject-verb pattern. Use phrases to alter the structure.

Sarah wasn’t happy at school because she had few friends.

Having few friends reinforced Sarah’s dislike for school.

Sentence Phrases
Using several phrases in your sentence allows you to alter the sentence structure. The easiest way is to develop phrases for your sentence that tells where, why, when, and how. Those phrases can then be move to various locations to determine which way sounds best.

Matt ran. (kernal sentence)
Matt ran home. (Tells where Matt ran.)
Matt ran home to arrive before the letter carrier. (Tells why Matt ran home.)
Matt ran home yesterday. (Tells when Matt ran home.)
Matt ran home quickly. (Tells how Matt ran.)

Sometimes you may wish to use several of these phrases, but seldom do you want to use them all. Often after you construct the phrases, you may wish to change the verb and alter some of the phrases.

There are three locations for any phrase: the beginning, the middle, the end. Some sound better in one place than the other. For this reason, practice moving them from place to place to determine what sounds best. Also, commas are used after a phrase that begins a sentence and sometimes if a phrase is in the middle of the sentence.

Yesterday, Matt raced home quickly to arrive before the letter carrier.
Matt raced home quickly, yesterday, to arrive before the letter carrier.
Quickly, Matt raced home yesterday to arrive before the letter carrier.
To arrive before the letter carrier, Matt raced home quickly.
To arrive before the letter carrier, Matt raced home quickly, yesterday.

As you can see, the yesterday in the fifth sentence is not smooth. Some are better than others, but this gives you some variety.

Using a gerund for sentence variety
A gerund is a verb with an ing ending. For this sentence structure, your subject must be doing two activities at the same time. Note the comma before the gerund.

Jason picked at his food.
Jason fed the dog when no one was watching.

Jason picked at his food, feeding the dog when no one was watching.

Paragraph variety:

Just like a single word or a short sentence gives emphasis to an idea, so does a short paragraph. Each of these stands out among the average size, but they all lose their emphasis if overused. Make them count where needed.

Remember: Overuse of any word or structure devalues its impact.

Next, the letter T in that Four Letter Word Edit.
T is for Take Time to Read Your Story Aloud.

Source (adapted from):
Cheney, Theodore A. Rees. Getting the Words Right: How to Revice, Edit & Rewrite, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, 1987.

6. ibid., p. 64-66.

©Aulicino 5 Dec 2008

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Draft as Many Versions as Needed for Clarity, Part 3

Edit Is a Four Letter Word, con't

The letter D is for:

Draft as many versions as needed for clarity

Part 3: Edit by Rewording

Often rewording means to make substitutions that improve your writing. Individual words or phrases can be omitted or altered. Making these changes can lead to accurate, clear writing. In rewording there are several areas to examine.

Inspect your verbs carefully.

1. Eliminate forms of the verb “to be” (am, is, was, were, are, will be, would be, etc.) as much as possible. This verb can be reduced…

a. By using more exciting verbs and by adding commas and adjectives.

The bookcase where I sat was made of oak and was filled with law books from floor to ceiling.

The oak bookcase rose to the ceiling, displaying volumes of law books.

b. By omitting the form of “to be”

Peering in the store window, the toddler was eyeing the spotted puppy that was lying next to the blond one.

Peering in the store window, the toddler eyed the spotted puppy lying next to the blond one.

c. By combining sentences, most forms of the verb can be eliminated.

Her hair was bleach-blond and it was thinning. Her deep brown eyes were sparkling with mischief.

Her bleach-blond hair was thinning; her deep brown eyes sparkled with mischief.

2. Strive for the most accurate verb possible. Every word in our language has a slightly different meaning; therefore, endeavor to find the one which expresses exactly what you wish to say. This is easily done by reading each sentence, focusing on the verb and determining what other verb could convey a truer picture of the event.

The young man was watching the women’s faces as they entered the room.

The young man scrutinized the women’s faces as they entered the room.

The cigarette smoke encircled the room.

The cigarette smoke engulfed the room.

3. Change passive verbs to active verbs. In reality, it isn’t the verb that is active or passive, but the subject. When the subject is doing something, there is action. Action gives the sentence a better “voice.” As you read your sentences notice if they bog down your thinking or the flow of the action. Once you notice the verb and you have transformed it to the most accurate one which conveys your meaning, see if the subject of that sentence is doing the action of that verb. Alter the sentence to remove the passive voice. If this cannot be done, you need to eliminate the sentence or realize this sentence requires the passive voice. Changing from passive to active voice can alter the meaning or it can clarify it. Understand what you intend to say and be certain your meaning is not altered with the change.

Service is provided to the diners with the utmost professionalism.

The restaurant serves it’s diners with the utmost professionalism.

Mills End Park is the world’s smallest park and is 452 square inches. The attraction to the people is amazing. The park draws people from everywhere.

It is amazing how Mills End Park, the world’s smallest at 452 square inches, attracts so many people.

The preposition by often indicates passive sentence construction.

The following word endings, although not passive in themselves, do attract weak verbs and passive constructions: -ion, -tion, -ment, -ance, -ancy-, ization. These endings are found in such words as, determination, , concession, announcement, realization, etc. When you notice these words in your writing, determine the verb from which they derive and try to restore the verb in the revised sentence.

The authorization to proceed came from the CEO.

The CEO authorized us to proceed.

The concession was made by the company that the workers needed the raise.

The company conceded that the workers needed the raise.

The announcement about their engagement came as a surprise to everyone.

They announced their engagement to everyone’s surprise.

Scrutinize the Nouns, Adjectives and Adverbs

In poor writing, weak verbs lean on adverbs and poorly chosen nouns lean on adjectives to gain descriptive accuracy. Verbs and nouns are assisted by accurate adverbs and adjectives, but to often, a novice writer over indulges.

The tall, skinny thirteen-year-old ran quickly down the hill.

The lanky teen raced down the hill.

Appeal to the Senses

Every reader is stimulated with words that appeal to the senses: see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. A good writer uses sensory words which convey emotion and draws the reader into the story. These words activate the reader’s mind and helps him or her recall experiences. As with everything, moderation is important. Do not use description excessively.

The pizza smelled good.

The pizza’s spicy aroma filled the room.

Be Specific

Good writing includes concrete details rather than abstract terms. These details mimic life more closely and breathe life into the story. A good writer uses specific details which evoke images in the reader’s mind.

The old man wandered down the alley in torn and dirty clothing.

The shell of a man wandered down the alley in tattered rags.

Remember: Choose your words carefully for clarificaton and to keep your reader interested.

Next, the letter I in that four letter word Edit.
I stands for:
Incorporate word and sentence variety

Source (adapted from):
Cheney, Theodore A. Rees. Getting the Words Right: How to Revice, Edit & Rewrite, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, 1987.