Do you ever travel up and down the aisles of the supermarket, searching for that one item, yet never finding it? Or worse yet, perhaps the store has conspired against you and rearranged your carefully mapped out aisles. It’s enough to make you want to drop bread crumbs or tie some yarn to the front door.
As banal as this scenario sounds, it happens all the time in our writing. We lead our readers down serpentine paths linked together with semicolons, dependent clauses, and em-dashes. We must stop.
I lose my mind when I have to read a sentence twice (or more) just to figure out what a writer has meant. And it’s not just the long sentences that are culprit. Staccato or choppy sentences can be just as hard to glean the true meaning.
The solution to mazelike prose is reading the dang thing out loud. Many times you’ll trip over the vary phrases you thought were perfectly clear. Even better, read it to some friends or peers. They can’t see the punctuation or paragraph breaks. If it sounds iffy to them, try a rewrite.
Please, Theseus suffered enough with the Minotaur the first go round. Don’t drag your reader through the labyrinth again.