A Vivid Description

I recently read a landscape description that I found particularly vivid. I can learn from it and thought perhaps others could, too:

“This great tract . . . stretches with apparent indefiniteness over the face of the continent. Level plains of smooth sand—a little rosier than buff, a little paler than salmon—are interrupted only by occasional peaks of rock—black, stark, and shapeless. Rainless storms dance tirelessly over the hot, crisp surface of the ground. The fine sand, driven by the wind, gathers into deep drifts, and silts among the dark rocks of the hills, exactly as snow hangs about an Alpine summit; only it is a fiery snow, such as might fall in hell. The earth burns with the quenchless thirst of ages, and in the steel-blue sky scarcely a cloud obstructs the unrelenting triumph of the sun.”

This is Winston Churchill’s description of northern Sudan. After reading it, I am not personally itching to go to Sudan even apart from its political instability.

I have tried to reproduce the punctuation from the original, though allow for the possibility of my error.

Punchy Prose

The Law Prose Blog offers writing advice to lawyers. Some of that advice applies to all writers. For example, a recent post discussed how to make your sentences focus more intently on your point or, as the post described it, ending sentences with punches. To get the desired punch, think about the most important point you are trying to convey and put that at the end of the sentence. Law Prose’s example was:

Ex. 1: Alaina Francis died in Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
Ex. 2: Alaina Francis died two weeks ago in Pittsburgh.
Ex. 3: Two weeks ago, while visiting Pittsburgh, Alaina Francis died.

If Francis’s death was what you want to emphasize, the third example makes the point best. If the timing of the death is what’s most important, then the first example best makes your point. But if there’s a dispute over the place of death, go for the second example.

Attention to such details will raise your prose to a new level.