Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 36.

love

We writers generally 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. The recent celebration of love via St. Valentine’s Day, that tacky, commercialised occasion much promoted by florists and the sellers of cards and chocolates, prompted me to use the ‘love’ theme to illustrate this collection of tautologies.

Current trend:

If it’s a trend, it must be current, so we can ditch ‘current’ or ‘trend’, depending on the context. e.g. The current trend is to speak of love when we mean sex and to assume that love and sex are somehow the same. Try: The trend is to speak of love when we mean sex and to assume that love and sex are somehow the same. Or: Currently, people speak of love when they mean sex and assume that love and sex are somehow the same.

Reply back:

You can’t reply forward, or in any other direction, except, of course, in the potential stage direction, ‘Reply, aside’. e.g. Reply back to her love letter and include words of love. Try: Reply to her love letter and include words of love. Or: Reply to her love letter with words of love.

Heat up:

Since we can’t heat down, I suggest ‘up’ is a little superfluous here. e.g. Heat up your love with added passion. Try: Heat your love with added passion. Or: Raise the heat in your love affair with added passion. The interesting aspect of this one is that ‘heat’ used as a verb doesn’t require the qualifier, but results in a clumsy sentence. Used as a noun, however, ‘heat’ benefits from the qualifying verb.

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.’

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