In my work as a free-lance editor, often I run across a common, small word used in a big, wrong way. It is grammatically correct. The spelling isn't at issue. The context is even appropriate. However, this small word sticks out to me like a dragon in a flock of hummingbirds. The word is... as
While as is appropriate in most of its uses, its also redundant, over-used and awkward when it shows up more than twice in a single page of text. Its counter parts are often more accurate, more appealing to the reader and more specific to the context of the paragraph or page.
Let's take a look at a 4 sentence paragraph with only a few uses of this word and then replace them with one of the following: during, when, while, after, before
"As the sun played across the heated desert sand, my feet burned as if I walked on hot coals. My throat, as dry as the sand drifts crowding me, burned a raw scorch as I walked. As the night drew its cloak over the rolling hills as a mother covers her sleeping babe, my knees collapsed. The image of blue water danced in front of my dry eyes."
Now that I've pointed them out to you, the use of the word is probably jumping out at you. Its a skill easily learned and recognizable once someone shows you.
Here's the better way.-
"When the sun played across the heated desert sand,My feet burned like I was walking on hot coals.My throat, dry as the sand drifts crowding me, burned a raw scorch while I walked. After the night drew its cloak over the sand, like a mother covers her sleeping babe, my knees collapsed. The image of blue water danced in front of my dry eyes."
This is an excerpt from a yet-to-be-nameless author who gave me permission to show on the blog what I taught her in an editing session. By using the alternate wording, the paragraph gains movement and tells a progressive story. It gains depth, timing and motion as compared to a flat telling of the facts. Even though the adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs remained the same. This adds a third dimension to your writing and brings pace and flow .
Its a little thing, easily caught and changed, but what a difference it makes. Check out your manuscript, poem, short story or article and play with the alternate words...and in the meantime, Keep writing!