Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wordiness, repetition

We’ve talked before about words that don’t add anything to a story and can often be omitted without changing the meaning. Words like just, actually, absolutely, that. Often these words are adverbs, which is probably how adverbs came to get a bad reputation, and some authors have a panic attack at using one at all.

We’ve also talked about phrases which are almost repetition. Phrases like “shrugged his shoulders”, “blinked his eyes”, and “stand to your feet”. Since you can’t shrug anything other than your shoulders, or blink anything other than your eyes, or stand to your knees (that’s called kneeling, not standing) you really don’t need to keep saying the extra bit. “He shrugged”, “he stood”, or “he blinked” is fine.

Here are a few phrases that writers often use to begin a sentence with. Again, they’re not needed. Just head straight to the meat of the message, and tell the reader without the preamble.
I'm writing to tell you that.” “I just wanted to let you know.” “All I can say is.” “As a matter of fact.” “In order to.”

Lastly, always remember you can’t modify absolutes. For example, you are either pregnant, or not pregnant. Whether you are one day pregnant or nine months pregnant, you’re pregnant. Not “a little bit pregnant” or “very pregnant”.
The same with “unique”. It means “one of a kind”. So an item can’t be “very unique” or “somewhat unique”. It either is or isn’t unique.

Removing all these wordy features will make your writing much crisper and clearer, and therefore more powerful.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...

Great reminders!

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Hi Anny,
How did the Great Road Trip go?