Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Don't Add Word Count With Unnecessary Words


Word count is always a concern when we are writing for a specific contest or a magazine that allows only a certain number of words. Many times, the members of my online writing group sub a piece and say that they are over the max for words. They request help in cutting words.

The first way to do that is through a line by line edit. Look for those unnecessary words that we all tend to use in our everyday conversation. Words like just, really, very, started, that, then and many more. Words like these add nothing to the meaning of the sentence. They're like ostrich feathers on a hat already adorned with fake roses. Too much!

Michelle Rafter of the WordCount website has a good post on words that we don't need. She has some excellent examples.

Beginning writers use more unnecessary words than seasoned writers. Why? One reason is because they start writing in the same manner as they talk to others. Those extra words seem to roll off our tongues with ease. Experienced writers learn to cut, cut, cut to keep to the word count and they know which can be axed.

When I'm critiquing a piece for someone else, I can spot those unnecessary words. They seem to be in neon lights. In reverse, I can miss many of my own when editing. Maybe it's like not seeing the faults in our own children as easily as we do the offspring of others.

If you are ruthless in cutting words, the result will be a stronger piece of writing. I have corrected the last sentence because I originally wrote...you will end up with...  There is no reason to use the word up in that sentence. It's not easy to cut the many unnecessary words. You will need to train yourself to weed them out of your prose and also your poetry. Yes, you can add a lot of unnecessary words to a poem. Even in poetry, less is better.

The topic is of such importance that you can find dozens of articles through a search engine. Google unnecessary words in writing or cutting unnecessary words in writing. Take some time to read what the experts have to say.

Select a piece of prose from your files and do a line by line edit. Mark the unnecessary words. Then total them when you finish. If you do a Gulp!, you'd better start working at eliminating them from future writing.

Yes, it's a small thing when you consider all that must be considered when we write. It's those small things that make or break your writing.

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