The Delete Checklist

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.

But 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.

The Rules

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

Actually
Always
Am
Are
Around
Asked
Back
Basically
Began
Begin
Begun
Being
Breath
Breathe
But
Certainly
Completely
Could
Definitely
Down
Exhale
Extremely
Feel
Felt
Generally
Got
Had
Heard
I believe
In order to
Inhale
Is
Just
Kind of
Like
Literally
May
Maybe
Might
Nod
Nodded
Noticed
Particular
Ponder
Possibly
Probably
Quite
Rather
Reach
Reached
Realize
Realized
Really
Saw
Seemed
Seems
Shrug
Shrugged
So
Somehow
Somewhat
Sort of
Specific
Start
Started
Such
Suddenly
That
Then
Thing
Think
Thought
Totally
Type of
Understand
Up
Very
Virtually
Was
Were
Wonder


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

30 thoughts on “The Delete Checklist

  1. Ughhhh what an awesome post. Seriously! I am just about to start another round of edits (does it ever end?!) and I am definitely too wordy in places. In a lot of places. This edit is ALL about tightening up my prose, keeping it concise but effective. This list has come at a perfect time, so thank you!
    Also, the way you wrote the main bulk of the blog while demonstrating the words you could cut was really clever. It made me realise I have sentences like that in my story that I need to alter.
    Another wonderful post, and super timely. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, M. No, the edits never end. I’ve lost count of what number I’m up to now. All I know is that it STILL needs work. I hope the list helps you out. It’s sure been helping me. Glad my strike throughs made the impression they were supposed to. I was worried it would be confusing 😅.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The strike throughs were fab, so no worries there! I keep thinking each edit will be the “last” one for a while, but so far no good! Going again, this time with the deadline to have it ready for submission by the end of July. Fingers crossed!
        Hope yours are going well too 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I overwhelmed myself by getting too obsessed with whether I’m telling instead of showing. Now I’m worried the changes I’m making to avoid telling are verging into head hoping rather than sticking to third person omnipresent, and it’s kinda stressing me out. I didn’t think the MS was still at the stage of needing this much editing, and was hoping to start submissions soon too. Instead, I think I’ll be fixing things for the next few weeks. I hope you meet your deadline ❤️.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m so the same at the moment. I’m so worried that I tell too much, and don’t show enough. This is part of my prose tightening process.
        For what it’s worth, I had very vivid imagery when I read your story, from characters to setting. I can sit back now and visualise Blackbirch and the book store in immense detail – so I think you’ve done a really great job. I also think you do brilliantly using 3rd person omnipresent, while allowing the focus character in the chapter to come across as personable and authentic. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks so much, M. You’ll never know how much I needed to hear that right now. I thought the same about your MS too. Your characters in particular really shone off the page. I wanted to see more of Jadon and he was barely in it! That’s how great you are at characters. I think every MS needs be trimmed of excess words, yours and mine included. The issue is trying to remember not to trim out the strengths 😅.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually think the sentence where you cut actually sounds far better with it in than without ahah!! But then again, I’m the woman who has a life long love affair with most adverbs, so there. I have a checklist of words to delete or substitute, because I’m aware of how often I use certain personal crutches and tend to separate verb when it sounds better if I didn’t – like didn’t and did not, when writing I tend to use the latter and then have to go through it all changing this time and again. Wonder why I do that, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🤣 I knew you would think it sounds better, Ruth! It’s something I would have written myself, not too long ago. Now that I realise just how wordy my sentences can be, that unnecessary ‘down’ is a delete for me. I think every writer eventually has their own checklist once they realise which words they repeat. And it gets harder and harder to make the cuts with each editing pass. This is something I’m trying to work on too.

      Like

  3. Antoinette Truglio Martin

    So true. Thank you for the list. Some of these words are my very favorite when I speak only to prove my verbal abilities need not be reflected in the written form. Tightening is key.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kendra Lee

    I went through a draft this morning and cut 150 words that I’d been ABSOLUTELY SURE were necessary. I kind of love the editing/reshaping part of drafting. Because I am a nerd. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay for you, Kendra! It’s funny how on one draft we find it impossible to cut, yet on another, we’ll realize the words really do need to go. I think that once it clicks you’re making the draft better/stronger, it’s easier to see and delete the unnecessary words.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: 6 Ways To Stop Overwriting Your Stories – K.M. Allan

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