Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eliminating a Verb For Extra Force and Cadence

With certain parallel structures, you can add nuance and cadence to your writing by removing one of the verbs. The parallelism makes it obvious to the reader what verb should be there.

Our marriage is a good one. Laura brings the beauty, I the comic relief.

Her novels registered these events most secretly, her letters not at all.

If used properly, this technique transforms a plain sentence into something outstanding. However, be sure that the verb is obvious from the context. Readers should never have to figure out what you meant, so don't make them play twenty questions guessing which word you left out.

Finally, use this technique sparingly. Jane Austen could perhaps get away with using this device once every few pages. But if a modern writer uses this device twice in the same article, it will seem pompous and deeply off-putting to readers.