Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 50.


This series, concentrating on ways to trim writing, whilst providing examples aimed at stimulating imagination, has come to its natural end with this post. Next, I’ll be looking at expanding effective vocabulary by using the right words to convey the idea, mood, or meaning.

Lift up:

It’s pretty difficult to lift in any other direction, so let’s avoid ‘up’. e.g. Dancing girls are often encouraged to lift up their skirts to stimulate the lascivious dreams of male audiences. Try: Dancing girls are often encouraged to lift their skirts to stimulate the lascivious dreams of male audiences.

Most unique:

One of my real bugbears. Unique is an absolute, and therefore can’t be qualified. If something is unique, it is without equal, so there are no degrees of uniqueness. e.g. Her lyrical poetry is most unique. Try: Her lyrical poetry is unique.

Off of:

Another abuse that irritates me, and one that seems popular on the far side of the pond for reasons I’ve never understood. ‘Of’ is entirely redundant, adding nothing to the meaning and sounding awful. e.g. Get your mitts off of my woman! Try: Get your mitts off my woman! But, so much better in every way: Take your hands off her!

If you’ve been reading this series of posts and merely nodding sagely, it’s unlikely you’ve improved your writing. Including the principle as part of your editing process, however, should make your writing lean and more effective. Fiction writers understand that real people use redundancy and meaningless expressions in everyday talk, so dialogue reads more naturally if these are occasionally included.

I hope these suggestions have helped. Rules about writing form useful guides but they are often only opinions and can be ignored when it makes sense to do so. Keep in mind George Orwell’s wise words: ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.’

The next posts aimed at improving writing will look at how certain words can affect the mood and tone of our writing. The new series will start on Friday and run on Tuesdays and Fridays for as long as it continues to entertain/inform. Enjoy!

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