The Long and the Short of It: Sentence-Level Style and Editing (with Cheryl Ossola)

Cheryl Ossola




SATURDAYS, JANUARY 14 —FEBRUARY 18  |  Good writing functions on many levels simultaneously. Tone, suspense, character, imagery, and subtext combine to make a story compelling, whether it’s flash fiction or War and Peace. We tend to think of these elements within the context of a whole—a story, essay, or novel—but to deliver that package, the pieces—the words, phrases, and sentences—need to work hard for us. When should our sentences be lean and mean, and when would a languid, lyrical flow be best? When can a single word say it all, and when might a paragraph-length sentence lead the reader deeper into a place or time or character? When is repetition annoying, and when does it add power? Why should you care about musicality in writing? And how can you learn to see your own work more objectively so that you can make all these decisions?

In this class we’ll explore sentence-level style and self-editing techniques through analysis, discussion, in-class exercises, and homework. Bring a piece or pieces of writing (fiction or nonfiction; no poetry) you’d like to work on and share, and be prepared to play.  Master the micro for macro effects!

Note:  This class will be followed by an optional four-week workshop (separate enrollment), that will give you additional opportunities to use the knowledge you’ve gained in revising your work.

Cheryl A. Ossola is a freelance writer and editor whose clients include San Francisco Ballet, Mathematica Policy Research, and Human Kinetics book publishers. Her work has been published in Dance Magazine and Dance Studio Life, at, online and in print by SF Ballet and other ballet companies, and in the literary journal Switchback (poetry). She has an M.F.A. in writing from the University of San Francisco and is revising (for the umpteenth time) what she hopes will be her debut novel.


Number of sessions: 6

Time: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Dates: Saturdays, January 14, 21, 28; February 4, 11, 18

Course fee: $330

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