Doesn’t wordy writing drive you crazy? It’s easy to spot a wordy sentence or paragraph when you’re the reader, but sometimes it’s hard to be succinct when you’re the writer.
During the summer before my junior year of college, I interned for my local branch of the National Writing Project. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with different kinds of writers—poets, short story writers, non-fiction writers. Every day, I’d listen as people read aloud part of a piece they’d been working on. I quickly discovered that incredible writing is wicked tight writing.
When writing is tight, every word is significant. There’s no wordiness or redundancy. But all of us writers know that it takes a lot of messy editing to get those clean sentences. So here’s some help in eliminating unnecessary words: a list of phrases that you can put on the chopping block, and what you can replace them with.
Let’s start with two redundant phrases: “the reason why” and “the reason is because.” You can easily tighten sentences with these phrases. Here’s how:
I’m trying to determine the reason why everyone is obsessed with cats.
I’m trying to determine why everyone is obsessed with cats.
You don’t need “the reason why.” A simple “why” suffices.
And “the reason is because” is redundant too. You can replace it with “the reason is that,” like so:
The reason is because people like furry creatures.
The reason is that people like furry creatures.
(“People like furry creatures” would also get the point across. I’d opt for this sentence.)
The phrase “due to the fact” is not only wordy but also unnecessary. The word “because” says the exact same thing.
I had to move out due to the fact that my roommate bought a cat.
I had to move out because my roommate bought a cat.
Due to the fact that her cat is criminally adorable, I changed my mind.
Because her cat is criminally adorable, I changed my mind.
You pretty much never need the word “currently.” Take this sentence:
My sister is currently in search of a new cat.
This sentence has the verb “is.” This verb is present tense, so it’s already implied that at this very moment, my sister is in search of a new cat. There’s no need for “currently.” Another example:
My cat currently has a bad cough.
Again, the verb in this sentence is in the present tense. It’s already implied that at the present time, my cat has a bad cough.
There’s also no need for “revert back.” “Revert” means “to return to a former condition, period, or subject.” Ditch the “back” and replace it with “to.”
I reverted to my original stance on felines.
My cat is kind when I have people over, but as soon as they leave, she reverts to her evil ways.
Like “revert back,” “reply back” is redundant. Get rid of the “back.”
People say cats can’t talk, but I swear my cat Theodore replied to me.
“Shared something in common” is redundant. You can replace it with “shared” or with “had something in common.”
“Most well-known” can be replaced with “best known.”
There’s no need for “unexpected surprise.” A surprise is by definition unexpected.
“Makes reference to” can be replaced with “refers to.”
“Pay money” can be swapped for “pay.”
Wordy phrases are everywhere, and I’ve only touched on this subject. I’d love to hear which ones you want to put on the chopping block or kill with a red pen.
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