Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 07.

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Most of us who write 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.

Alternative choice:

This is tautology. You can use either ‘alternative’ or ‘choice’. Using both is akin to saying ‘tiny little’ or ‘great big’; hardly encouraging for your readers, eh? e.g. He was left with no alternative choice for the correct word. Try: He had no alternative word. Or, if you must: He had no other choice of word.

When it comes to:

Four words where one will do? e.g. When it comes to creating features, you need to choose headlines wisely. Try: When creating features, choose headlines wisely. Or, better: Choose headlines wisely when you write a feature.

Fellow classmate:

Since a classmate, by definition, is a fellow pupil, ‘fellow’ is redundant. e.g. A fellow classmate bragged to Shirley at the reunion. Try: A classmate bragged to Shirley at the reunion. Better, perhaps: At the reunion, a classmate bragged to Shirley.

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.’

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