April 19, 2006
Liz published this at 7:24 am
Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
– Mark Twain
In the Successful Blog Cafe last week Rob at Jamdo’s article offered advice on how to strip out excess words in your posts to increase keyword density. That’s good editing advice. In fact, much of editing is taking out ALL of the words that you don’t need.
Words that Writers Don’t Need
As bloggers, we write in a conversational tone, but conversation moves fast and easy. We can correct if someone doesn’t understand what we’re saying. They can interrupt if we’re going on, and on, and on, and on. We’re likely to notice if our audience walks away while we’re still talking.
Unfortunately, we don’t have those luxuries when the words are written. More written words don’t necessarily build more bridges and rapport. Additional words can get between the reader and our message. Here are places I go to remove extra words that creep in while I’m writing.
Out, Out, Damn Words
- Just I use this word as a transition or a softener when I talk. It tends to creep into my writing without me noticing. Soon I have a page of sentences that say things like
I just knew that he was just trying . . .
I knew that he was trying . . .
I knew he was only trying . . .
are far stronger choices.
- Some of I put this one in and take it out a lot. This phrase doesn’t say anything.
Here are some of my thoughts.
doesn’t give more information than
Here are my thoughts.
The first sentence is weaker.
- Very I’m with Mr. Twain’s editor on this one. Very makes the word that follows it lose value.. If something is beautiful. Let it be beautiful. If there is a category called very beautiful, then beautiful must not be beautiful enough.
The lines of the sleek, new car were beautiful.
has more power than
The lines of the sleek, new car were very beautiful.
- Different I often sprinkle in a few differents when I need a word to keep the writing going. I try to save different for when I truly mean not like something else.
Different people have different ideas about editing.
really works better if I only use the word different where it’s really needed.
People have different ideas about editing.
- I think, I thought The reason I write something is because I think it is important. Unless I really want to emphasize that my thinking is different from other people’s thinking I remove I think and I thought phrasing. Sentences like to stand without me taking credit for them.
That’s good editing.
has a stronger voice than
I think that’s good editing.
So, there you have them —
Some of my very different thoughts on how to tighten up your writing. Tighten up your writing, and readers will hear what you’re saying more easily.
Everyone has their little “word things.” What are yours?