Editing Rant: Paragraph Lead Words

Another Editing Rant from this year’s slush reading. Below is part of the post-script I added to the form rejection to the author.
(BTW, if an editor takes the time to add a postscript to the rejection, read it and take it for the complement it is meant to be. When the a submission editor takes the time to comment on your submission, at least two things have occurred – (1) they read your manuscript and (2) they liked it enough they would like to see it be the best it can be even if they don’t have the time personally to help make it so.)

Finally, watch out for paragraphs starting with the same word. This may seem strange advice. You may have heard be careful starting several sentences in a row with the same word because it creates a boredom with its repetition. Sometimes you want the beat for emphasis
He ran. He ran faster. He ran as fast as he could. He knew it would never be fast enough.
But for the most part, repetition of beginning words of sentence after sentence is bad.

Paragraphs create a similar boredom, but it is much more insidious because the reader’s conscious mind isn’t the one report it to the like-dislike-bored section of the brain. Their inner eye scans the page ahead as they read, processing information subconsciously – the words at the start of paragraphs stand out during this unconscious reading and register word after word being the same.

This function is related to the human mind ability to read words correctly based on the first and last letters.

It deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm.

Try not to have more than two paragraphs in a row starting with the same word. One of the ways to fix this issue is by varying sentence structure so it isn’t all “noun-verb” or “pronoun-verb” to start a paragraph.