The Three Sentences Most Overused by Beginner Writers

by Rayne Hall


1. S/he turned to look/and looked at him/her.

2. S/he nodded slowly.

3. S/he took a deep breath to steady her/himself


If you submit your story to an agent or editor, these sentences send the signal “beginner” – and this may not be the signal you want to send.

For many editors who skim over a hundred slush pile submissions in half an hour, one of those sentences on the first page may be enough to consign the piece to the “reject” pile.  That’s because the use of those sentences signals an inexperienced author who has not yet developed an original voice and whose work is likely to need much editing.

If you self-publish your fiction, these sentences make your writing very similar to that of many other new writers, which may not be an effect you want.

Nothing about these sentences is “wrong” – and there’s no law forbidding you to use them. Just use them sparingly. One of them per book is not a problem, but one per page is. Some novices use several of them in every chapter.

Check your writing before you submit or publish it. How often have you used these sentences? Consider using them less often… and not at all in the first three pages.


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