I have tendency to write chopped sentences with too many conjunctions, repeating the subject again and again. I don't want that but I'm not skilled in English.

For example how do write the following in a better way for a screenplay? I feel the below sentence looks chopped and repeats the subject, and looks like it was written for a formal letter or something.

Hundreds of people are standing and looking at the on-coming train. Their sweating faces encrusted with dust, and they are wearing old clothes and shoes.

  • This is, on the surface, a request to rephrase a single sentence, and the community has decided that these are off-topic. However, looking more closely, the question is more about a general trend, and uses a particular sentence as an example. May 6, 2013 at 2:09
  • 1
    @NeilFein, I had the same reaction -- it's a more-general question with a helpful example. user5126, in the future you might want to use two or three examples of a problem you're trying to solve, to give us more to work with and to make the general problem more clear. May 6, 2013 at 3:59
  • 1
    To what extent is this question limited by the condition "for a screenplay"? Would the same techniques be relevant in the case of a news report or a literary novel?
    – Fortiter
    May 6, 2013 at 6:54
  • @Fortiter I think literary novels and news reports are pretty different from each other, and screenwriting probably falls in between. (News cares more about conveying information effectively than writing good descriptive prose -- 5Ws, inverted pyramid, etc). But please do ask related questions! May 6, 2013 at 13:46

2 Answers 2


For a screenplay, it is probably more important to be clear than to have excellent, flowing prose. (I'm not a screenwriter.) For the more-general case of descriptive prose, however, one approach is to convert "they are" verbal clauses to adjectival clauses. Instead of:

Hundreds of people are standing and looking at the on-coming train. Their sweating faces [are?] encrusted with dust, and they are wearing old clothes and shoes.

Try something like:

Hundreds of people, clad in old clothing and their sweating faces encrusted with dust, are standing and looking at the on-coming train.

(I also converted "old clothes and shoes" to "old clothing" there.)

How you do this depends on which aspects of the description are most important. You don't want to pile on a bunch of adjectival clauses (covering both the clothing and their faces in one sentence seems borderline to me), but as you've noted, you also don't want to string along a bunch of "oh yeah, and..." descriptive sentences. So focus on the ones that are most important for telling your story, and let the rest emerge naturally later -- or not.

To apply that advice, consider instead a longer passage like:

Hundreds of people, sweating faces encrusted with dust, stand and watch the on-coming train. (Something happens.) (Somebody watches) the sea of people, all clad in well-worn dusty clothes, swarm toward the doors. (Etc).

The point here is to add the descriptive detail as it fits, rather than loading it all up at the beginning.


For a screenplay it is standard to use present tense, and to use simple present in most cases. It makes the action more immediate. So, instead of "are watching" you'd just say that they "watch". Or they gawk, or scan or consider or stare at -- whatever makes sense.

Use very specific nouns and verbs. Every word counts. You don't have many to work with.

So, for your example I might make it more succinct:

Hundreds of people in old clothes, their sweating faces encrusted with dust, watch the oncoming train.

Or you could go longer, but more specific (I'm making guesses here about what's actually happening and who these people are):

Hundreds of townspeople, their clothes ragged, their sweating faces encrusted with dust, watch the train as it rolls into the station.

Read as many screenplays as you can. You'll start to hear the particular rhythm, and begin to notice how language is used differently in screenplays.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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