How You Can Tighten Your Writing (Part 1): Rejecting Redundancies
When I coach writers, whether they work in creative fields or in journalism, I often see how their copy is laden with redundancies and filler. I preach the gospel of tight writing, which focuses on writing compelling sentences without the frills some writers believe they need to engage readers.
For all you loyal Medium readers, I’m starting a four-part series on how to strengthen your writing, from deleting filler phrases to finding the right verbs and adjectives.
Let’s get started with a major challenge I’ve seen writers have trouble confronting…
A critical nuance of strong writing is eliminating useless words that don’t add anything to what you’re trying to convey. That kind of unnecessary padding isn’t often intentional; these phrases are so ingrained in our lexicon, we don’t think twice about using them in our writing.
But if tight writing is crisp and crackling, then you need a Spidey sense for words and phrases that do nothing but add syllables to your sentences. Sure, there are exceptions, such as when you want to instil some rhythm to your prose. Thing is, you want to get rid of phrases such as “thing is” which don’t bring anything to your writing. My last sentence would’ve been just as strong without that front-loaded frill.
What do I mean by useless appendages on certain phrases? Below are several examples, with my comments or the preferred term (in brackets):
Add up (add)
Advance notice/warning (a warning is always in advance)
Connected together (connected)
Established fact (fact)
Local neighbours (as opposed to foreign neighbours?)
Lift up (lift)
Maximum limit (limit)
New beginning (beginning)
Plan ahead (plan)
Reason is because (because)
Reiterate again (reiterate)
Revert back (revert)
Seek out (seek)
Share together (share)
Totally devoted (‘devoted’ says enough)
Unintentional mistake (mistake)
Verbal discussion (discussion)
Wintertime (why add ‘time’?)
This isn’t an exhaustive list but it should give you a sense on how you should choose the simpler term when you have a choice between the two.
In my next post, I’ll teach you how to prune your sentences to get rid of qualifying words that weaken your writing. Stay tuned, writers!