Writers enjoy sharing ideas to improve their craft. Here are some ways to trim our writing. Readers will appreciate us removing common redundancies and flabby expressions.
Commute back and forth:
You commute to get to and from work, so ‘back and forth’ is unnecessary. Unless, of course, you have the sense to live close to your place of work, in which case you won’t have to spend valuable hours on an environmentally damaging trip. e.g. The commute back and forth exhausted him. Try: The commute exhausted him.
An often unnecessary intensifier, used to emphasise. Contemporary speakers also use this simple word as a ‘spacer’ to allow them time for thought, usually inappropriately. e.g. She was so delightful. Better: She was delightful. And, as a space filler. e.g. Question: What are you doing now? Answer: So. I’m now writing my autobiography. Try: I’m writing my autobiography.
Grew in size:
You can, of course, grow in knowledge and experience, but context should usually preclude the need for the qualifier. If you can avoid it, the sentence will have more strength. e.g. She grew in size each time I saw her. Try: She grew each time I saw her.
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 unnoticed. Include this check as part of your editing process to catch most offenders. Fiction writers, however, remember real people use redundancy and meaningless expressions when talking, so dialogue can be made more natural by occasionally including these examples.
These suggestions are intended to make us think about what we write, examine our words, and help us decide how to improve our writing. Rules about writing form useful guides but should never be considered as set in stone. Always bear in mind what George Orwell said; ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.’