Books, writing, reading, words and images. I love them; do you?

Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 25.


Writers share ideas to improve their craft. Here, I’m looking at ways to trim our writing. Readers will thank us for removing common redundancies and flabby expressions.

Careful scrutiny:

Scrutiny is the careful examination of something, so ‘careful’ is a tautology here. e.g. Susan read the contract with careful scrutiny. Try: Susan read the contract with scrutiny. Better: Susan scrutinized the contract.

Go back over:

This is a bit clunky. Reread, re-examine, or re-evaluate may be better. e.g. Holmes suggested they go back over the case notes. Try: Holmes suggested they re-examine the case notes.

Take a look at:

Do you really need all those words to express this? e.g. Take a look at this photograph of Susan. Try: Look at this photograph of Susan.

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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