This is the write-up on a movie DVD.
“In this pensive drama, a sequence of ostensibly random but life-altering incidents conspire to link a half-dozen Los Angeles denizens from disparate economic and social classes, leading to epiphanies about responsibilities and relationships.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
This overloaded sentence violates some of the most important rules of writing, specifically:
1. Keep sentences short. A good rule of thumb: if you have to take a breath when reading the sentence aloud, the sentence is too long.
2. Use the smallest word possible. This sentence has many long, multi-syllable words.
In effect, this sentence needs a diet. Fortunately, it is easier to fix such a sentence than it is to stay on the typical diet. Simply:
1. Consider cutting it into two sentences.
2. Replace “heavy” words with shorter ones.
Using that formula, the description could read: “In this pensive drama, apparently random events link six Los Angeles residents. Although they are from different economic and social backgrounds, the Californians experience similar life-changing insights about responsibilities and relationships.”
I saw the movie and know my description reflects the plot. And this re-write does illustrate how putting your sentence on a diet can dramatically affect its readability.