Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 15


Writers share 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 flabby expressions

All things being equal:

Avoid this empty phrase. e.g. All things being equal, he would have her in his bed by midnight. Try: If he had his way, she would be in his bed by midnight.

Frozen ice:

Ice is frozen water (other forms of ice are available, but are generally specifically described as such: card ice or dry ice is solid carbon dioxide.) e.g. Venturing out onto the surface of the pond, he fell through the frozen ice. Try: Venturing onto the frozen surface of the pond, he fell through the ice. Better: He fell through the ice covering the pond.

There are / There were:

This type of phrase can rob your sentence of strength, so avoid it. e.g. There are some writers who seem to have all the luck. Try: Some writers seem to have all the luck.

Reading this post and nodding wisely won’t improve your writing. Stay alert to extraneous words that sneak into text, or they’ll slide in when you’re not looking. Include this as part of your editing process to 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 suggestions are 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.’