The Same Ol’ Thing
by Ariel Pakizer, Creative Writing Institute Volunteer
Writing is tricky, but one rule is clear…readers, editors, and publishers like clean writing that is free of redundancies. No one likes to plod through oceans of verbiage. Redundancies slow the narrative and clutter the plotline. Remove them and make your work shine.
Replace, “He looked down at his shoes,” with “He looked at his shoes” or “He looked down.” Unless you‘re writing about aliens that wear shoes on their hands, readers will understand the character must look down to see footwear. Respect your reader’s intelligence.
Every word should hold a purpose, reveal new information, and/or push the narrative forward. Redundancies such as “whole earth” or “entire world” are unnecessary since “world” summarizes everything on earth. Other examples of lame writing are:
- closed fist
- future plans
- brief summary
- final outcome
- armed gunman
- advance warning
- end result
- exact same
Look for redundancies in your phrases, too.
- She is the girl who lives on my street is loaded with verbiage. “She lives on my
street,” says the same thing without clutter.
- “Each” and “every” are both fine words, but use one or the other.
- Instead of saying “in spite of the fact,” use “although.”
Don’t worry about redundancies in a first draft. Slice and dice them on your last edit. Test your skills on this 82-word paragraph. How many words can you save?
She looked up at the stars, and wondered if all the others were watching them as she did. The stars would be falling soon, and every living person would be cast into never ending darkness. It didn’t matter what people did now, the end result would be one and the same. Past history had tried to warn them in advance, urging people to make future plans to stop this horrible event. No one cared to listen, and now it couldn’t be stopped.
Every word is precious when you have to stay within a word count. Read this clean copy:
She wondered if others were watching the stars, too. Soon, they would fall and cast life into darkness. What happened now didn’t matter. History’s warnings were ignored and the future forgotten. It was too late.
Only 35 words, yet it reads easier and doesn’t change the meaning. Delete and rewrite entire paragraphs for practice. Remember, less is more, and conciseness is king.
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