Friday, May 17, 2013

Editing Unnecessary Words

Actually, it's not OK to write garbage, but the point here is well-said. Last night, I critiqued a blog post for a member of my writers group. She had a lot of good things to say about her subject matter, but the piece needed editing. It was a first draft which she asked others to read and suggest changes.

She used many unnecessary words, mainly because she wrote in the way we think or speak on a daily basis. We chatter, adding all kinds of phrases and words that contribute little to the main theme of what we're trying to say. My friend is not alone in doing this. It's a common failing and one writers need to address in every story or article they write. Our writing needs to be far more concise than our conversation skills. 

If we add needless words like salt and pepper on a fried egg, the reader can lose subject matter. They have to dig through those additions to find the meat of the story. Some may give up and quit reading.

1.  What are some unnecessary words that can be eliminated? Check the short list below:
  • practically
  • actually
  • sort of
  • kind of
  • particular
  • generally
  • really
2.  One more way to eliminate an unneeded word: If you write a sentence using that before a noun, your sentence loses nothing by cutting it. Example below:

OK:  This is the hotel that Donald Trump built.

Better:  This is the hotel Donald Trump built.

OK:  I loved the dress that you wore to the prom

Better:  I love the dress you wore to the prom.

3.  Don't try for long descriptive sentences when a short one will get the idea across. Yes, there are times we all like to write prose like a poet, but too much of it becomes fodder for those unnecessary word critiques.

In the early days of my writing, I claimed the title of Queen of Unnecessary Words. Thanks to some good critiquers, I soon learned to tighten my writing by eliminating words that had no bearing on the subject. Doing this resulted in a more professional piece that proved easier to read and understand.  Guess what? When I edited this post, I removed a good many of those words that were not needed.

What I've listed above is only a partial list of the unnecessary word syndrome. There are many others. Google 'unnecessary words in writing' to find more detailed articles. When you edit your work, train yourself to look for those words that can be cut. It will take some time but you'll find it easier with practice.

1 comment:

  1. I always do a word search on -ly to weed out unnecessary adverbs.