I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil .~Truman Capote
We writers are constantly challenged to find the right words–to be descriptive, but not verbose. To make our language leap from the page, but at the same time, control our word choice.
One of the easiest ways to clean up your writing is to omit unnecessary words.
Check out the following articles on words you can cut from your writing, and note your own worst offenders. Next time you write something, see how many you can avoid.
- Plague Words and Phrases, Guide to Grammar and Writing
- 51 Overused Adverbs, Nouns and Cliches in Writing ,Quips and Tips for Successful Writers
- Writing Concise Sentences, Guide to Grammar and Writing
- Ten Words You Should Cut…to Improve Your Writing Style, Bright Hub
- Are Vampire Words Sucking the Life Out of Your Writing?, Copyblogger
Once you’re used to writing more concisely, look at one of your older pieces of writing. Notice how the unnecessary words pop out at you?
The biggest one I’ve learned to cut is “that.” Now, I cringe every time I see it used without cause. My other pet peeves are:
- “Firstly, secondly, thirdly,” for, “first, second, third”
- “Try and,” instead of, “try to”
- “Extremely,” used to describe something that cannot really be extreme
I’m not suggesting we strip our writing bare, but I do prefer to see each of our words count. We can do that by cutting weak words and replacing them with stronger ones.
While you don’t need to completely banish these words, use them only occasionally, and with good reason.
What words are you trying to eliminate from your writing? Which ones do you find particularly grating?
Can you suggest any other articles or resources on the art of concise writing?