Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 19.


Writers share ideas to improve their craft. Here, I look at ways to trim our writing. Readers will thank us. I’ll examine common redundancies and flabby expressions.

As far as I’m concerned:

Obviously, since you’re the one who’s making the statement. E.g. As far as I’m concerned, politicians always lie. Try: Politicians always lie.

Surrounded on all sides:

When something, or someone, is surrounded, they are faced with barriers all around. The phrase ‘on all sides’ is redundant. E.g. She was surrounded on all sides by admirers. Try: She was surrounded by admirers. Better: Admirers surrounded her.

Has/have to be:

Lazy: another expression that’s fine in dialogue but not suitable for narrative. E.g. The climate change deniers have to be countered. Try: The climate change deniers must be countered. E.g. That costume has to be wrong for this place. Try: that costume must be wrong for this place. Better: That costume must be wrong here.

Reading this post whilst 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, be aware that real people often use redundancy and meaningless expressions when talking, so dialogue can be made more natural by occasionally including these.

These suggestions should make us think about what we write, 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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