Sorry for the break: I’ve been otherwise engaged for reasons that may become clear later!
Writers enjoy sharing ideas to improve their craft. Here, I’m looking at ways to trim our writing. Readers will thank us. I’ll examine common redundancies and a few flabby expressions.
You can only have a tantrum as a result of losing your temper; there is no other form of tantrum, so ‘temper’ is redundant. e.g. The guy was having a temper tantrum because his girlfriend arrived late. Try: The guy was having a tantrum because his girlfriend arrived late. Better: The guy had a tantrum when his girlfriend arrived late. Best: The guy having a tantrum over his girlfriend’s late arrival was a prat she’d be better off ditching.
Of is unnecessary. Cut it out. e.g. All of the girls loved Benny. Try: All the girls loved Benny.
Few in number:
Since you can’t have few in anything but number, ‘number’ is not needed. e.g. First-time homebuyers are too few in number because landowners are too greedy. Try: First-time homebuyers are too few because landowners are too greedy.
And, whilst I’m at it, here’s a pet peeve. I’ve noticed an increased use of a couple of expressions, often from supposedly professional journalists broadcasting on TV or radio. We hear: This happened at 10 a.m. in the morning. Or: The accident occurred at 9 p.m. at night.
Please, let’s remember that AM is short for ante meridian, which means ‘before midday’ and PM is the abbreviation for post meridian, which means ‘after midday’. Professional users of the language should know better than to express themselves so poorly. Let’s ditch either the acronym or the term for the part of day, we don’t need both, do we? Thank you.
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.’