November 4, 2020

Refining Your Words

When creating content for your target audience, you might often find yourself cringing at some of the sentences you write. Editing yourself is an important skill which not many writers master. However, one of the easiest writing flaws to spot is using too many words that don’t really add to the meaning of the sentence.

Short, Sharp, Scannable Writing

One of the first things to consider when writing content online is that people are reading on a screen. It might be a small one, or a wide one. The wider it is, the harder it can be to follow the chain of thought as their eyes go from one side of the screen to the other. Short sentences ensure people won’t get lost. Cutting out unnecessary words also helps them understand what is being expressed.

Too Much Information

In many cases, the cluttering words are not needed. A good example would be “8 PM in the evening.” PM already tells us it is at night. “Exact replica” is another case of saying the same thing twice. Replica already tells us it is an exact copy.

“Future plan” is another good example. Planning always refers to something that will be done in the future.

Adjectives and Adverbs

These can often be filler words we think are powerful, but are actually pretty weak. You can say “very hot,” but why not use a vivid word like “scalding” or “roasting”? “I’m very hungry,” is much stronger when expressed as “I’m starving,” or “I’m famished.”

“Really” is similar to “very.” It is supposed to make the words more intense, but actually has the opposite effect. “I’m really sorry,” doesn’t actually sound that sincere compared to, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

In terms of adverbs, try to avoid, “All of a sudden.” “Suddenly” is fine. But don’t overuse “suddenly” either. Try to express the abruptness of what happens through your choice of words. “The man barged through the door. I jumped back, dropping my clipboard with a clatter.”

“Totally” and “Completely”

These also do not add the intensity we think they will. “I was completely full after the wonderful meal,” might be better as, “I was so full after our anniversary dinner, I had to undo my belt two notches.”

“The suitcase was totally full,” might be better as, “The suitcase was stuffed, nearly bursting at the seams.”

“Amazing” and “Awesome”

These words are completely overused these days, and should be avoided. They add little additional information and just seem like lazy writing or trite clichés that every other writer is using.

“Then”

Then is overused when writing about a sequence of events. In a story, it is understood that things are not all happening at exactly the same time, but one by one – often as a result of cause and effect. Adding the word “and” on occasion can help things flow more smoothly.

“I arrived at the restaurant. Then I sat down. Then I ordered a drink. Then my blind date walked in, wearing a huge sunflower. He had warned me he would go out of his way to help me figure out who he was. Then I felt my cheeks go red. He just looked like a circus clown.”

Tightening this up without the “thens,” it would read: “I arrived at the restaurant, sat down and ordered a drink. As the waiter brought my white wine, my blind date walked in, wearing a huge sunflower. He had warned me he would go out of his way to help me figure out who he was. I felt my cheeks go red. He just looked like a circus clown.”

Writing More Tightly

Use Grammarly.com to help you weed out your wordiness, and keep a hit list of bad habits such as the ones above nearby whenever it is time to edit your work.

Leave me a comment below. I promise to read every single one and share a few in a post I am working on for next week.

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Eric
Post Contributor

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