Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Their stories of healing and persistence serve as examples that it’s never too late to start over.
What’s wrong with it?
The phrase “serve as examples” is wordy and takes emphasis away from the sentence’s main idea: It’s never too late to start over.
How do you fix it?
English has a dizzyingly vast vocabulary, so chances are there’s a single word that encapsulates “serves as an example.”
“Prove” seemed like an acceptable substitute in terms of brevity, but it slightly altered the meaning, making it sound like the stories of healing and persistence were the only two examples when the author wrote that they were among a few.
After quick trip to dictionary.com’s thesaurus, we found a better word in “show.”
We replaced “serve as examples” to “show.” (And don’t forget that all three—“show,” “prove,” and “serve”—refer to “stories,” so the verb needs to be plural.)
Their stories of healing and persistence show that it’s never too late to start over.
Remember Orwell's two rules:
(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Stick with those, and you'll seldom go wrong.