Euphony is a term from poetics that means your language is pleasing to the ear. It’s top-priority for poets, dramatists, and speechwriters. It’s also an important consideration for prose. I “hear” things as I read them, and I believe a distinctive written
voice is a sign of artistic maturity. Euphony is all about sound. Here are a few tricks I use to make sure my writing isn’t jarring to my readers’ ears.
1. Avoid frequent repetition of the same word or phrase. A trick I use for this one is to find two synonyms for the word I’m repeating and vary them. When I’m writing about something that’s so specific I can’t find the synonyms, I mitigate the repetition as best I can with careful attention to pronoun usage, sentence length, and word ordering.
2. Stay away from sentences that are all nearly the same length. Short sentences result in choppy writing; too many long sentences produce a monotone. Early in my career, I used an exercise to teach myself to vary my sentence length. I’d write a paragraph and make sure each sentence had at least seven more, or seven fewer words that the previous one. I’d begin with say, 12 words. The next sentence might 5 or 19+, and so on. It worked! I learned to give my writing a natural, conversational rhythm and now I do it without thinking. Cool, huh?
3. Avoid unintentional alliteration. Sometimes, using back-to-back words that begin with the same letter are unavoidable, but I try not to use three (and certainly not four) unless I’m doing it on purpose and I’m sure it sounds good. This is an issue I typically deal with in revision.
4. Don’t use too many adjectives, and be even more sparing with adverbs. Three adjectives is nearly always at least one too many, and you can nearly always eliminate every instance of the word “very” by simply cutting it or choosing a stronger word to begin with (replace “very happy” with “elated,” for example).
These are only the basics. Since everyone’s preferences are different I’m interested in hearing from you:
What makes a piece of writing grate on your ear? Do you use specific techniques to avoid those things in your own writing?
This post was difficult to illustrate, so I’ll just post this graphic here. I find it very useful for keeping up with where I should be at the end of each week of the challenge.
Personal Note – I’m a little off my normal routine because I had some personal stuff going on yesterday that kept me offline all day. I barely had time to do the visits. My plan is to catch up with comments and update my A to Z page later this afternoon, and use tomorrow to catch up with those of you who Tweet with me.
Badge and calendar images by Jeremy of Being Retro