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
To eliminate is to remove entirely, so ‘completely’ is superfluous. e.g. If you want your dog to really love you, completely eliminate all competition for your attention. Try: If you want your dog to really love you, eliminate all competition for your attention. Of course, your nearest and dearest might have some objections to this strategy!
It means something, but it could surely be better expressed. e.g. Putting your dog on a leash helps keep him away from those tempting sheep. Try: Putting your dog on a leash will keep him from those tempting sheep. Or, perhaps better? Put your dog on a leash to keep him away from those tempting sheep.
Do you really need ‘off’ or ‘out’? e.g. To teach your dog proper walking skills, start out by calling him to heel at each kerb. Try: To teach your dog proper walking skills, start by calling him to heel at each kerb. Or, better? Teach your dog proper walking discipline by calling him to heel at each kerb.
Apparently, your dog, a pack animal by nature, will respond to your demands if you make sure he knows that you, as pack leader, are top dog. Did you know that the word ‘dog’ has no known etymological origin? For centuries these animals were known as hounds. Something changed that to dog around the 16th century.
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.’