editing / writers tips

Writers Tips #6: Wordiness–Cut, Cut, Cut

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong?

Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. I’ll point them out. They’ll come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments. Please add comments with your favorite editing fixes.

According to William Strunk, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

How do you write cogent and pithy sentences? Start with these:

  • Wordy: he is a man who
  • Better: he
  • Wordy: I was unaware of the fact that
  • Better: I was unaware that
  • Wordy: because of the fact that
  • Concise: because
  • Wordy: the color of pink
  • Concise: pink
  • Wordy: shouted loudly
  • Concise: shouted (have you ever shouted not loudly?)
  • Wordy: shrugged her shoulders
  • Concise: shrugged (What else would you shrug?)
  • Wordy: due to the fact that
  • Concise: because
  • Wordy: in order to
  • Concise: to
  • Wordy: in view of the fact that:
  • Concise: because

You get the idea. Readers are goal oriented. Let them get there.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth, creator of two technology training books for middle school, and three ebooks on teaching tech to K-8. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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8 thoughts on “Writers Tips #6: Wordiness–Cut, Cut, Cut

  1. Morning, Jacqui,
    Thank you – searched for “shrug” in two of my books. “Shrug” is a succinct word, conveying action, reaction, and emotion – no other word says exactly this. Adding “the shoulders” is the image we get when we read. Was glad to note I’d only fluffed once in each story. Very helpful post.
    Shari *: )


  2. Love this! I’d challenge anyone to try it with their writing – surprising how much extra you can cut, even when you think you already write concisely. As a science writer, the goal is always to avoid verbiage, so I’m accustomed to being short and to the point – but I still always manage to clip something extra off when I do my final edits!


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