Recently, some books I’ve edited have brought to my attention a problem writers have that diminishes the strength of their prose (and after about ten times on one page, starts to drive me crazy). It’s an easy pattern for a writer to get into while trying to avoid starting all the sentences the same or with too many “He did this…” or “She did that….” The tiny little word that makes such a problem is “as.” “He nodded as he put down the saw.” “She smiled as she took off her coat.” “As he walked through the door, he answered the phone as it vibrated with its ominous summons.” So much as-ing weakens writing and reflects poorly on the author. Go ahead and change it up. Use interesting nouns and strong verbs. Get away from structuring every sentence the same. “He wasn’t even through the door when his phone rattled in his pocket, announcing the ominous summons.”
When you write and then edit your work, keep your eyes open for using “as” and make sure you don’t over do it with the potentially ubiquitous little word. Here’s a quick visual way to check. In Word, do a word find for space-as-space (adding a space on either side will keep you from also finding all the words with a-s within them). This won’t find the sentences that start with the word, but if there is a problem with overuse, you’ll still get the idea without those sentence starters. (Word 10 word search will automatically highlight them all for you. If you are using Word 2003, click the box after opening "Find and Replace" (control+F) that says “Highlight all items found in:” and then in the drop down, choose “Main Document.” Click “Find All” box, then click the highlighter button in the tool ribbon.) If the as-es are excessive, change up half or more of the sentences that use them. Then as you create new sentences, every time you want to structure a sentence using “as,” try to come up with something more interesting. In time, you might also be able to develop an aversion to “as” and you won’t let yourself overuse them! Happy writing!
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Life with Quadruplets
As a mother of quadruplets, I've had plenty of crazy experiences raising "supertwins." I blog a lot of memories about my kids. Sometimes just my thoughts on things. I get those sometimes—when my brain works. Which is about one third of the time.