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.
If you destroy something, it is shattered, demolished, pulled to pieces: in any case, it ceases to exist as it was before the act. ‘Completely’ is therefore a redundancy. e.g. Joe completely destroyed the tree with his axe. Try: Joe destroyed the tree with his axe.
Here’s the thing:
Where’s the thing, and what the hell is it anyway? This is no more than a filler. Please avoid it. e.g. Here’s the thing; that tree you chopped down was protected under a preservation order. Try: That tree you chopped down was protected by a preservation order.
To persist is to remain, so ‘still’ is an unnecessary qualifier. e.g. If, in spite of my warning, you still persist in your attempt to fell that tree, I shall be forced to chop off your head. Try: If, in spite of my warning, you persist in your attempt to fell that tree, I shall be forced to chop off your head. Or, better? Leave that tree unharmed, or I’ll take that axe to your neck!
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.’
If you enjoy the word clouds that accompany these posts, you can make your own at this website.