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.
Something in proximity to something else is close to it, so ‘close’ is a tautology. e.g. The close proximity of the backpacker caused the tourists to be nervous. Try: The proximity of the backpacker caused the tourists to be nervous. Better? The proximity of the backpacker had a disproportionate effect on the wellbeing of the tourists.
If followed by a gerund it might be better to change your sentence. e.g. How many hours do you spend writing your novel each day? Try: How many hours do you write each day?
Fly/flew through the air:
There’s no other medium that generally allows flight, so the phrase is unnecessarily wordy. e.g. The raptors flew and soared through the air above us. Try: The raptors flew and soared above us.
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.’