Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Words to delete or replace

1. Really.
“She really tightened her sentence.”
“Aw. He’s really the cutest frog ever.”
Deleting “really” doesn’t change the sentence at all. So delete it.

2. Things/Stuff
“I went to the shops for some stuff.”
This tells the reader nothing. Either “I went to the shops” if the shopping is irrelevant to the story, or “I went to the shops and bought bananas.” So now we know the hero likes bananas. Or possibly has a pet orangutan.

3. I think/feel/know/believe
These weaken the sentence. If we’re in someone’s POV we know it’s them doing the thinking and don’t need to be constantly reminded.
“I think you look good in green.” This is weak and tentative.
“You look good in green.” This is a much more powerful sentence.

4. The verb “to be” in passive voice.
This is weak and overly wordy.
“The lily pad had a frog sitting on it.”
“The frog sat on the lily pad.” This is shorter, sharper, better.
Or even
“The frog was sitting on the lily pad.”
“The frog sat on the lily pad” is still better.

5. Very
Very is often used to intensify a weak word. Save yourself the trouble and use one strong word instead.
“Today is very hot.”
Maybe, “Today is scorching.”
Other times it serves no purpose at all and should be deleted.
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain

Helen Woodall

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

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