Every so often, you’ll stumble on a phrase that could be taken one of two ways. Occasionally hilarious and sometimes – ahem – naughty, these phrases should be hunted down and weeded out of your manuscript for total clarity. LDS author Annette Lyon keeps a list of funny sentences written (accidentally) by members of her critique group and has generously shared them here.
-Quiet and patient, Alice's dark hair was always pulled into a simple bun.
-After our morning in the hay,
-She told me her aunt had died just before she passed out.
-We'd better get going before Herb beats us.
-He began, then stopped seeing Jacob's scowl
-Lizzie's hands flew to her mouth. Inside lay four books.
-Suddenly, my mom turned into a driveway.
-Felipe skirted the men.
-John couldn't help but notice the internment sniffing.
-Andrew noted his lean frame on the high counter sipping his drink.
-Perhaps Liza had taken his mother's journal or even that poor soul, Gus.
-Lighting a candle, she settled beneath the covers.
-The odor reminded him of his mother's big, smelly chest.
(referring to a cedar chest)
And some of my own:
- Jordon’s breath came in pants. (Oh, really? Jeans or khakis?)
- Call in a fresh set of eyes and take their advice. (If my eyes ever start giving me advice, I’d freak out)
When we get into the groove and the ideas are flowing, they often don’t flow in perfect, complete phrases. This is what the second draft is for, to go through and carefully read everything. Can a sentence be taken in more than one way? Did you completely miss the meaning of the sentence altogether? This is where another set of eyes can be invaluable. Have your spouse or good friend read for you. Tell them to be honest and point out any sentences that don’t make sense, and then by all means, change them.
In summary, what is sometimes perfectly clear in our own minds is actually blurry. Make sure that you’re saying what you really meant to say, and that your reader is getting the same message you’re sending.