Erin's Poetry Tips

40 tips to poetry and poetry forums

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Keep it simple stupid!

Keep it simple!
Observe the old rule - when in doubt, leave it out. Remember what’s called the ‘KISS principle’ (keep it simple, stupid) Salespeople use it, and so should you: If customers don't understand them, they won't make the sale. The same rule of thumb applies to poetry, and your “customers,” your readers.
Shoot for clarity.
Fanciness leads to pretentiousness, and pretentiousness puts readers to sleep – not the effect you’re looking for, unless you’re writing a lullaby.Clarity is critical for keeping a reader’s interest. Write about one thing and stick to the subject.
Use short sentences.
Use about 15 – 20 words per sentence. Keep your subject and verb together. That way, you won't confuse your readers. And you won't confuse yourself. Concise sentences are easier to follow and less likely to muddle the subject.
Avoid run-on sentences and excess commas.
Average one idea in each sentence, just like the ‘one idea per poem’ concept. If you only have one idea, you don't to worry about commas and semicolons. Try not to put more than two ideas in the same sentence. If your rhythm is better served by a pause (or you have some other reason to forego a period) consider using and, or but to join the two sentences.
No fragments!
Make sure every sentence has a subject and a verb, and remember words that end with -ing (gerunds and participles) aren't always verbs. Be especially careful of words like although, as, after, before, because, if, that, unless, until, when, which, who, etc. They turn complete sentences into fragments.
Write like you talk.
Use the subject-verb-object type of sentence that science has proven most effective for the average reader. Let the sentence patterns of common speech work for you, not against you. Put the important first in each sentence where your reader needs it.
Read your writing out loud
Listen to the sound of the words. You'll catch more errors this way. You’ll also get a feel for the flow, rhythm and cadence. In an effective poem, your reader ‘hears’ the poem in his mind, you want to know exactly what it is he’ll hear, reading the poem out loud to yourself is the best way to do that.