Writers seem to enjoy sharing ideas to improve our craft. Here are some ways to trim our writing. Readers will appreciate us removing these common redundancies and flabby expressions.
Could generally means ‘might’, ‘may’ etc., so ‘possibly’ is redundant. e.g. Your cat could possibly win the Fancy Cat contest. Try: Your cat could win the Fancy Cat contest.
Not as straightforward as some, because it’s possible to use the phrase, ‘fell/fall up’, as in, ‘I fell up the step.’ (I’d prefer, ‘fell over’). It’s a colloquialism that has found acceptance through use. But we’re writers; let’s try to keep it pure, eh? e.g. If your cat fell down from the tree, it’d be bound to land on its feet. Try: If your cat fell from the tree, it’d be bound to land on its feet.
Is there an unsafe haven? Isn’t a haven a place of safety? Let’s ditch ‘safe’ here shall we? e.g. The cat treats the warm spot under the stove as a safe haven. Try: The cat treats the warm spot under the stove as a haven.
Reading these posts and nodding sagely 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, and you’ll catch most offenders. Fiction writers should remember that real people use redundancy and meaningless expressions when talking, so dialogue can be made more natural by occasionally including these.
The suggestions here are intended to make us think about what we write, examine our words, and help us improve our writing. Rules about writing form useful guides but shouldn’t be considered as set in stone. Always bear in mind George Orwell’s wise words on grammar; ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.’