Wordiness:The Post in Which I Discuss Reduction of the Aforementioned


I'm a wordy girl. In school, the teachers used to tell us the minimum amount of pages required for a paper. While others were trying to figure out what font would fill the maximum amount of space (Courier New, btw), I would be trying to get my paper under fifteen pages. So I know I have to watch this tendency when I'm writing.

The terrific resources on the RWA site helped me out again. Here are some things to help cut the fluff out of your manuscript.

1. Eliminate and remove redundancy.
Fluffy: She sobbed and tears fell from her eyes as she watched him walk away.

Sleek: Tears fell from her eyes as he walked away.

2. Delete intensifiers that don't intensify.
F: Generally, Mary kept her very deepest emotions hidden.

S: Mary kept her deepest emotions hidden.
(or even better: Mary hid her deepest emotions.)

3. Remove important sounding phrases that don't add to a sentence.
F: All things considered, she was thankful for the outcome.

S: She was thankful for the outcome.

4. Avoid starting sentences with expletives.

No, this doesn't mean curse words. An expletive according to Webster is : "a syllable, word, or phrase inserted to fill a vacancy without adding to the sense." That should tell us all we need to know. (it was, there are, etc)
F: It was his gaze that made her heart beat faster.

S: His gaze made her heart beat faster.
(Or better: His gaze made her heart pound.)

5. Use active instead of passive voice whenever you can.
F: The dishes were washed after dinner by my mother.

S: After dinner, my mother washed the dishes.

6. Reduce clauses to phrases, and reduce phrases to single words.
F: In the very near future, she would have to make a decision.

S: Soon, she would have to decide.

7. Remove adjective clauses where you can.
F: The girl who lived next door wore a dress that had pink stripes.

S: The girl next door wore a pink striped dress.

8. Turn prepositional phrases into one-word modifiers.
F: The captain of the football team always dated the prettiest of the cheerleaders.

S: The football team captain always dated the prettiest cheerleader.

9. Cut extraneous words or phrases.
F: We conducted an investigation regarding the murder.

S: We investigated the murder.

10. Remove cliches and euphemisms.
F: He had a sneaking suspicion his protests had fallen on deaf ears.

S: He suspected they had ignored his protests.

11. Weed out the "to be".
F: Sue found the children to be exhausting.

S: Sue found the children exhausting.

12. Avoid stating the obvious.
F: He sat down and realized it was already 6am in the morning.

S: He sat and realized it was already 6am.
*This a personal favorite of mine. I naturally write "stood up"--like where else can you stand but up? Grr. I do it all the time.

13. Delete meaningless adverbs.
F: She yelled at him loudly, then ran away quickly.

S: She yelled at him and ran.

The source that I pulled this from also has fantastic lists of

Redundant Phrases like

absolutely essential = essential

future plans = plans

Wordy Phrases

A lot of = many

Come to an end = end

And Cliches

sad but true (great Metallica song, but a cliche nonetheless)

give a damn

*This is a repost from October 2009

So are any of you wordy like me? Which of these do you find cropping up in your manuscript the most?


**Today's Theme Song**
"More Than Words" - Extreme
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)