Writers enjoy sharing ideas to improve their craft. Here, I’m looking at ways to trim our writing. Readers will thank us.
I’ll look at common redundancies and a few flabby expressions.
But, reading this post and nodding wisely won’t improve your writing. Stay alert to those extraneous words that sneak into text, or they’ll slide in when you’re not looking. If you include this as part of your editing process you’ll catch most offenders.
Fiction writers, however, should remember that real people often use redundancy and meaningless expressions when talking, so dialogue can be made more natural by occasionally including these.
A gunman is a man bearing a gun, which is armament, therefore ‘armed’ causes the phrase to become a tautology. e.g. Yet another armed gunman went on a killing spree at an American college today. Try: Yet another gunman went on a killing spree at an American college today. Or: Another gunman joins the long list of American killers of children as he uses his licenced weapon for the purpose it was manufactured to perform. (Sorry if this one causes grief to my American readers, but, really America…still living in the Wild West?)
Went back over:
This is a lazy phrase. Better to use something like ‘reread’ or ‘re-evaluated’. e.g. They went back over the evidence. Try: They re-evaluated the evidence.
If some is a ‘fellow’, as in ‘fellow worker’ they are an associate of some form, so ‘fellow’ is redundant. e.g. A fellow colleague caught John and Joan misusing the stores cupboard. Try: A colleague caught John and Joan misusing the stores cupboard. Or: A colleague found John and Joan making creative use of the vacant stores cupboard.
These are suggestions; intended to make us think about what we write, to examine the words and help us decide how we can improve our writing. Rules about writing form useful guides, but, in the words of George Orwell, ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.’