A Lesson by The Perfectionist

A writing problem that is becoming all too common.


I invented the term 'clunking' last year to describe the way my girlfriend was writing at the time. Since then, I have noticed it more and more in other people's writing, and as such, I shall do my best to make this aware to the public at large so that the infection may be stopped before it spreads further.

First, a definition:

Clunking: Writing in short, stocky sentences that contain few to no commas or semi-colons and often have repetitive beginnings.

Here's an example, stolen from a story I reviewed today:
"It was cold outside. It was like standing in a freezer. I began to wish that I had brought a jacket with me."

You can almost hear the clunk as each sentence plops itself down after the previous one. You could make that into one sentence with a bit of creative grammar, and at the very most it should be two.

I'm still not sure exactly what causes clunking, but I've noticed a few common trends in people who clunk.

1. Misuse of commas
Not everyone knows how to use a semi-colon, and while everyone really SHOULD, that one can be forgiven. Everyone, on the other hand, should know how to use commas and periods. They are the two most common punctuation marks in written English. Yet while most people understand what a period is for, a comma is lost on them.
People who clunk often miss commas when they need them and have commas where they don't. Research is good, but if nothing else, remember this: a comma creates a pause in the sentence; if you don't want a pause, don't have a comma.

2. Absence of semi-colons
Semi-colons are one of the least used punctuation marks in English, which is a shame because they are very useful grammatically. Again I encourage you to look them up, but the lazy man's definition is that a semi-colon is used to join two related but unconnected ideas.

Here's an example from one of my own works:
"It showed in his appearance; no longer did he have circles under his eyes or was he unable to stay awake for more than two hours at a time."

A comma here would be incorrect. The phrase "no longer did he have circles under his eyes or was he unable to stay awake for more than two hours at a time." is a complete phrase on its own, not part of the previous sentence. Yet, it is related to the first phrase, so a period isn't necessarily right either.

If you catch clunking, point it out. If you see it in yourself, fix it. Remember, punctuation is the antidote to clunking. Here's a little guide to send you on your way.

Comma = short pause
Semi-colon = long pause with two related phrases (the second often elaborates on or explains the first)
Period = Break between two separate phrases

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Posted 14 Years Ago

I do use semi-colons but I often catch myself misusing them. I normally correct the errors before I post my writing on WC, but every now and then one will slip through and I won't notice it.
Very true about clunking though. I'm guilty of doing it sometimes as well, but I try to fix that before publishing my work

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Posted 14 Years Ago

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Posted 14 Years Ago

Nice post!
I think people do clunking because that's the way ideas pop up in our minds. At the first draft, a writer tends to just jot these down without thinking. We just want to put the ideas into writing first. That's why review is important.

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Posted 14 Years Ago

I have use semi-colons, but my problem is I always seem to miss them in the first draft. Sometimes on my second draft. But considering I generally do four drafts of each work I usually have everything nailed down by the fourth. I have to do four because I am a bit scatterbrained and miss a lot with each revision.
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The Perfectionist
The Perfectionist


Send me Poetry RRs at your own risk. They will be read but they will not be reviewed unless I actually have something to say. All stories, no matter how terrible or boring, will be reviewed. Review..