4

Consider this paragraph

The twilight is small but distinctly visible. The gloomy sky is staring down at the parched roads as the storm began thundering. Gradually, the moon is crescendoing into existence as the sun is waning away.

It uses a lot of 'the's. How can I remove the repetition of 'the' from my writing?

It's not like I don't want to use it, but I just think that I am overusing it and it's decreasing the quality of my writing. I have thought about and tried using transitions, but was unsure how to transition from one sentence to the next naturally. Furthermore, it didn't completely solve my problem of reducing 'the's in my writing.

I would like some general tips that can be applied to a piece of descriptive writing to reduce 'the's in it.

New contributor
Ved Rathi is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
6
  • 12
    All your verbs are Present Continuous (Progressive) Tense: is small, is visible, is staring, began thundering, is crescendoing, is waning…. Break up that monotony. 'The' is not your problem, 'is' and 'ing' are.
    – wetcircuit
    Aug 3 at 5:38
  • 13
    I don't think most readers mind "the"s, they barely register. But, I think you could leave out "the" in front of "twilight", "gloomy sky", and "parched roads". If you pluralize "storm", you can leave it out there as well. However, I'm more concerned about twilight being "small" (which doesn't make sens to me) and the moon "crescendoing into existence" (which sounds tortured to me).
    – towr
    Aug 3 at 6:18
  • 7
    More than tortured, it's nonsensical. Crescendo even if you choose to verb it, means "reaching maximum intensity" or, at best, "an increase in something that is already there" so you cannot crescendo into existence.
    – terdon
    Aug 3 at 16:14
  • I don't see a problem with "the", but it sounds a lot better to me if you remove the continuous tense. It gives a greater impression that stuff is actually happening, rather than you simply setting the scene. "The twilight is small but distinctly visible. The gloomy sky stares down the parched roads. The storm begins thundering. The moon gradually crescendoes into existence as the sun wanes away." I'd say this is just on the edge of repeating the same sentence structure too often (the acceptable side of the edge, that is, but others may disagree).
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 4 at 9:06
  • A minor point is that you could probably prune "away" from "waning away". Seems redundant.
    – J W
    Aug 4 at 9:21

3 Answers 3

16

If I wanted to write this without using "the":

Twilight begins, small but distinctly visible. A gloomy sky stares down upon parched roads as storm clouds begin to thunder. Gradually,as daylight wanes away, moonlight crescendoes into existence.

Change the tense, change word orders, use implication, change from "The Moon" and "The Sun" to their effects, "Moonlight", "Daylight". Substitute other words for "the", like "a".

I agree with @towr "The Moon crescendoes into existence" is not good poetry, and "small Twilight" is confusing.

I agree with @wetcircuit as well; look for ways to shorten your writing. "The gloomy sky is staring down at the parched roads" is the wrong tense. "Gloomy skies stare down on parched roads" is both fewer words and less awkward.

Readers don't mind "the" in front of nouns like "the sun", "the moon", "the knife", "the car". It doesn't even mentally register. They are not counting how many times you use words like "and", "the", "a", etc. As long as you use them correctly. If it isn't a verb, noun or adjective, it is just the connective tissue of normal conversation.

But overly wordy sentences dilute the impact of your intent, and eventually make your writing weak. It is kind of like over-explaining, like spending pages describing a landscape.

Try to manipulate your lines, using tense and rearrangement, to keep the verbs, nouns and adjectives, but minimize the connective tissue. Cut back on the wordiness, and your tense problem will vanish on its own.

It will also read faster. Your job as a writer is to assist the reader's imagination, and the more efficiently you do that, the more immersed the reader becomes in the story.

1
  • 2
    Per Steven King's On Writing, write your first draft, then cut 10% of it. Aug 3 at 13:45
1

Welcome with kindness, new member.

"The" is an article of speech, like "a" and "an." Three general tips to limit the use of "the" are:

(1) make your nouns the subjects of your sentences. This will have the secondary effect of shifting your verbs from verbs of being to verbs of action.

What can the moon be doing? Maybe it stabs the sky. What can the twilight be doing? Maybe it lingers on the landscape.

So, for every noun following an article in your example, play with making it the subject of the sentence.

(2) Also, play with swapping in a few prepositions, in place of the article. The goal here is the creation of more complex sentences.

(3) Try swapping in possessive constructions. Nebraska's gloomy sky, instead of the gloomy sky.

To exemplify:

Twilight arrives, small but visible, with overhead gloom staring down at parched roads. A rumble of thunder rolls through the sky, pulling slivers of sunlight away and placing them gently against Autumn's moon, now cresendoing into existence.

0

I'm not sure what to do about the "small" twilight - twilight to me isn't something that has size - but apart from that, I would write

The twilight is small but distinctly visible. The gloomy sky stares down at the parched roads as the thunder starts. Gradually, the moon grows into existence as the sun fades away.

Certainly not "crescendo". That's an increase in sound volume, and the moon is surely silent, certainly not audible above the thunder.

New contributor
Michael Kay is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.

Your Answer

Ved Rathi is a new contributor. Be nice, and check out our Code of Conduct.

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.