Whether you write nonfiction, novels, or a spate of short stories, the reader deserves clear messages or engaging tales. Getting rid of words and phrases that clutter sentences help you deliver the payoff. To write in a more excellent way, strip these overweight words from your sentences.
Want to make your prose sing? Get rid of “things.” This common word worked wonders for Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, John Coltrane, Dr. Seuss, and Martha Stewart. However, its presence often indicates an unfocused writer.
When writing or editing, determine whether the “thing” is something else. When you see “thing” or “things” lurking in your sentences, remove them. Insert the specific words or rewrite the sentence to convey your message with greater precision and impact.
“Wait, Francis, I just have one more thing to tell you,” Arthur said.
“Wait, Francis, I have one last point to make,” Arthur said.
For more power, consider leaving off “to make.”
“Wait, Francis, I have one last point,” Arthur said.
A few years ago, my freelance gig required writing product descriptions for a retail establishment’s website. The client did not want any form of the word “is” to appear in the short descriptive paragraphs.
I could not use “is,” “was,” “being,” or “has” when writing about blenders, refrigerators, ovens, or washer-dryer combos.
In performing the task, I realized how “state of being” words lengthen sentences but do not add value. The assignment taught me a crucial lesson. As a result, I crafted stronger sentences and paragraphs.
To give your writing more power, substitute active verbs for state-of-being words.
The Hot Spots convection oven is designed with state-of-the-art features, including a remote-controlled temperature changer.
The Hot Spots convection oven features state-of-the-art conveniences, including a remote-controlled temperature changer.
The first sentence contains 15 words, but the second sentence, only 12. If word count limits matter in your story or article, eliminating three words in a sentence while retaining the meaning can provide a benefit.
“I want to attend Roscoe’s party, but the thing is, I don’t have the time.”
"I want to attend Roscoe's party, but don't have time.”
3. Up or Down
The National Basketball Association (NBA) allows referees to penalize players for an offense the Association calls a “flagrant foul.” The NBA defines the term as “Unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.”
Including “up” or “down” in some contexts might constitute a flagrant writing foul. Why? Because you commit the offense of failing to give readers credit for common sense.
Omit “up” or “down” when the meaning is clear from the entire sentence.
Celia wanted to catch up with Bruce, so she ran.
Celia wanted to catch Bruce, so she ran.
Alonzo crossed the room, sat down in the chair, and stretched his arms up toward the ceiling.
“Down” is unnecessary. How else would Alonzo sit in the chair when he first arrives?
“Up” is unnecessary. “Toward the ceiling” tells the reader Alonzo is stretching upward.
Alonzo crossed the room, sat in the chair, and stretched his arms toward the ceiling.
Eliminate common crutch words when you write and edit. The results? Stronger prose and more engaged readers.