Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 06.


Most writers seem to enjoy sharing ideas to improve our craft. So, let’s chop the fat from our writing. Make it lean and trim. Readers will thank us.

In this series, I’ll look at some common redundancies.

But, reading this post and nodding wisely in agreement won’t work. We need to stay alert to those extraneous words that sneak into text, or they’ll intrude when we’re not looking. Including this as part of our editing process should catch most offenders.

All time record: A record, in this sense, is something that overtakes all previous efforts. However, there are different types of records. If you’re reporting the fact that someone has broken a record for a specific event, then ‘all time’ is probably redundant. However, if you’re reporting an event that is a particular high for say a region or a country, then that needs to be clear. So, in the reporting of records, you need to make it clear what record you’re specifying, but should avoid using redundant qualifiers. e.g. ‘She broke the all time record for the hundred meters run.’ If this is a world record, then the sentence is fine, since it makes it clear that this is not a regional record. But, if this had been a national event, you’d need to write something like: ‘She broke the Welsh record for the hundred meters run.’

With reference to:

A flabby phrase. e.g. ‘With reference to your earlier remark, I don’t agree.’ Try: ‘Regarding your earlier remark, I don’t agree.’

Free gift:

Oh, don’t the promoters love this redundancy? A gift is something without cost; that is, free. Any gift that has conditions attached isn’t a gift but some form of inducement. e.g. ‘Complete this survey for a free gift.’ Try: ‘Complete the survey to receive a gift.’ Though, even this is not a true gift, but a reward for your time in completing the survey. A gift comes without strings. So, not only take care in using the phrase but beware of those using it; it probably hides an obligation.

Please consider these as suggestions, intended to make us think about what we write, to examine the words and help us decide where we can improve the sense of them. Writing rules are useful guides, but, as George Orwell famously said, ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.’