When I submitted a manuscript for a children's book to a publisher, they expressed an interest but wanted me to improve the style and cadence:

The syntax and cadence would possibly work well in an oral retelling of the story, but on paper, they seem to be awkward and stilted in parts. The narrative's tone seems inconsistent -- in some parts formal and old-fashioned, in other parts too casual and modern.

I have no idea of what techniques or method of writing I can implement. Are there any universal suggestions for style and cadence when composing a children's fable for the ages of 6-10? Should a casual, modern tone be preferred over an older fashion?

The publisher I cited is very strict about exercising their right to have option over submitted materials, so I have to be careful about presenting excerpts. In any case, here are some small passages.

The little squirrel begged and pleaded for the buzzard. He even offered up his mother, stating she was a whole lot fatter than he and could last him 3 meals. Too bad for that little squirrel though, that old buzzard was concerned about what was easiest and not who was the fattest. That was how he became the best hunter in the bird world. The little squirrel was so disappointed and hoped to be eaten by a “more amazing bird.” That old buzzard was offended when he heard that the squirrel or anyone else could think there was a more amazing bird than he.

“A bird more amazing than I,” the buzzard was also curious. “Oh, yes, yes. I saw an eagle once that was swifter than the fishes of the sea and could catch as many as 7 mid-air with one swoop and I was just amazed to see it fly. I bet 6 of the feathers from your marvelous feathered mane could do it all the more better.”


“Oh mighty buzzard, please do not despair. I know of one more challenge you can manage right over here. I once saw a falcon so fast that it flew between the jaws of an alligator but I am sure you could do that twice but be careful, those old alligators have never been known for being nice.”


This time, that old buzzard pulled it off. He was able to dive, not passed through, the jaws of not one but two alligators but, it was close; so close the the air from the clack of the alligators' teeth nearly caused him to tumble mid-air. Right then and there he knew it was his time to bail but that poor buzzard, he did not notice the alligator's tail.

  • Hi Gregg, and welcome to Writers. I've removed the anecdotal sections and trimmed the question down to its actual meat. I think now it's in a format we can help you with. The mods may also ask you to post a short excerpt or two so we can see what your text is like, and help you to rewrite it. Jul 26, 2014 at 0:42
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    Gregg, welcome to the site. I'm afraid that your question is asking for us to explain what an agent's notes mean, regarding a manuscript we haven't seen. Examples would be very helpful. Jul 26, 2014 at 1:59
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    I agree, a large excerpt would be helpful. As for choice between modern and old-fashioned - both are fine, but stick to one within one tale. Neither of the styles is wrong, but the changes of the style are often jarring, especially if there's no specific purpose to these changes.
    – SF.
    Jul 26, 2014 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


You have a few problems here. One is basic command of grammar. You have run-on sentences, weird dialogue attributes, and just outright incorrect sentence structure. You need a proofreader before anything else.

The other, as the publisher pointed out, is that you go back and forth from "artificially antique and formal" (Oh, mighty buzzard, please do not despair) to casual and modern (Too bad for that little squirrel, though and This time, that old buzzard pulled it off.)

Either you are trying to tell a modern story or you are pretending to relate an old fable. Pick one and make everything that style.

Formal: "Oh mighty buzzard, please do not despair."
Casual: "Hey, big guy, don't worry — I bet I know one more trick you could do."

Formal: This time the great bird met with success.
Casual: This time, that old buzzard pulled it off.

  • I agree, this sentence was a little tricky for me so a six year old is going to really struggle: "That old buzzard was offended when he heard that the squirrel or anyone else could think there was a more amazing bird than he." Jul 29, 2014 at 15:54
  • @FionaTaylorGorringe No, given how some of the "old fables" are written, I was fine with that sentence, actually. I don't think it's a bad thing to make a six-year-old struggle a bit to understand archaic phrasing. I would fix it to "The great buzzard was offended to hear that the squirrel, or anyone else, could think that there was a more amazing bird than he," but the intent is fine. Jul 29, 2014 at 17:19
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    Yes, I think the commas make all the difference. Jul 29, 2014 at 17:51
  • Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions.I especially appreciated the examples provided, that helped greatly.
    – Gregg
    Aug 4, 2014 at 17:11
  • @Gregg If you're happy with the answer, please click on the checkmark to accept it. That's how Stack Exchange works. :) Aug 4, 2014 at 18:32

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