Words. You can’t be a writer without them. We use them to convey our thoughts and feelings, to create worlds and the characters living in them. Words give us our voice, but they can also muddle it.
Just because you can write using all the words doesn’t mean
that you should.
Being too wordy can
actually be a bad thing. It weakens sentences and takes the impact out of our paragraphs. This potentially stops something good from being great.
By removing unnecessary words, you’re left with strong, clear prose.
some of these words add depth and character, you might argue. Yes, they do. In the right sentence, in the right paragraph, at the right point in the story. Any other time it’s likely to be cluttering up your sentences.
This isn’t a complete checklist. Just as we all have our own personal Repeats list, you may wish to remove some words or add
in others. What this checklist will do is give your find/search function a place to start.
Please remember that not every instance needs to be deleted. Use the checklist to take a close look at how you are using the word:
If it makes sense without it, cut it.
If it’s needed for clarity/depth/etc, keep it.
The Delete Checklist
In order to
For those wondering if you’ll have any words left after going through this list, keep the following example in mind…
Jessica knelt down to get the fallen streamer and threw it in the bin. “Carla, when are you going to take these down?”
Not only is adding down twice in one sentence bad writing, it’s the perfect example of why you should have a delete checklist.
Down is not needed in the first instance. We can assume Jessica knelt down because there is no other way to kneel. Asking Carla when she’s going to take the streamers down, however, is necessary…
Jessica knelt to get the fallen streamer and threw it in the bin. “Carla, when are you going to take these down?”
By deleting the first instance of down and keeping the second, the sentence is neater and still makes sense. That is what a delete checklist can help you do.
If you haven’t tried this type of editing before, I highly recommend giving it a go. Next week, I’ll be delving into the words that weaken your sentences with examples from my own writing, so be sure to check back. In the meantime, happy deleting!
— K.M. Allan