Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 12.

ask question

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.

Ask the question:

Can you do anything else with a question but ‘ask’ it? Of course you can: pose a question, even post a question. However, to write, ‘ask the question’ is to commit a tautology for which, as a writer, you should be severely castigated. e.g. Ask the question of your tutor. Try: Ask your tutor. Or, Question your tutor.

For the purpose of:

Avoid this empty phrase; you’re using four words where one will do. e.g. I edit my stories for the purpose of improving my writing. Try: I edit my stories to improve my writing. Better: I edit my stories to improve them.

Two equal halves:

A half is a precise amount, leaving another half from the whole. If you’ve truly produced a half, you don’t need to explain that these are equal or that there are two of them. If, however, you’ve cut unequal portions, you need to find another way of expressing the action, since these are not halves, though there may be two of them. e.g. Divide the spoils into two equal halves. Try: Divide the spoils into halves. Or: Split the spoils in half. Better: Halve the spoils.

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.

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.’

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