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.
Cease and desist:
The lawyers seem to love this one, but writers of creative work would, I hope, resist the tautology. e.g. Cease and desist all contact with Miss Aniston. Try: Cease all contact with Miss Aniston. Better? Do not contact Miss Aniston.
Small and weak: there are so many synonyms. Tiny, minute, diminutive, little, just off the top of my head. And it may be possible, and preferable, to specify the size where possible. e.g. My study is small. Try: My study is tiny. Better: My study is a cupboard. Or: My study is a coffin. And I’m sure you can think of other apposite metaphors.
Really? You don’t think there’s an element of the unnecessary here? e.g. She first conceived the idea to start a family when she met Brian and discovered he would make fine breeding stock. Try: She conceived the idea to start a family when she met Brian and discovered he would make fine breeding stock. Better? She took one look at Brian and decided he’d be fine breeding stock for the family she had in mind.
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.’