It’s spring, the time of year when many of us try to shed the pounds we collected during a sedentary winter. We want to look good.
Let’s transfer that effort into shedding unnecessary words and phrases from our writing.
We “bulk up” our writing for many reasons: trying to justify the hours spent composing, showing off our vocabulary, or achieving minimum word counts. We want to look good to our readers.
Our intentions often backfire. Instead of our readers admiring us, they get confused and impatient trying to follow what we really mean.
Just like losing weight, getting rid of flabbiness in our writing isn’t easy, but it’s extremely rewarding. Do you know that feeling when you can finally fit into those jeans without having to hold your breath? You can get a similar feeling when your reader understands your ideas and enjoys the way you have presented them.
So, what’s our plan of action to tighten up our writing?
Know thy writing. None of us is perfect, so recognize your writing pitfalls. This is the same as knowing your trigger foods when you’re trying to lose weight.
Practice portion control. Sometimes we just can’t stop what we think is a good thing whether it’s consuming lasagna or a metaphor gone wild. Understand that less often gets you more. Don’t go back for seconds or repeat what you already said.
Trim the fat. We all know we need to cut down on fats to lose weight. The same goes for trimming the excess from our writing. This is a necessary, if painful, part of revision. (Why do you think writers refer to revising as “killing our babies”?)
Instead of writing, “in this day and age,” put “today” or “now.”
Substitute active voice (The dog chased the ball.) for passive voice (The ball was chased by the dog.).
Cut out unnecessary -ing constructions. (I swear, if I read “being that” again, I’m going to throw a Pink Pearl eraser at someone!)
Just like losing weight, tightening up our writing takes vigilant effort. But — oh, baby – just imagine the results!