Editing for Grammarphobes: Pruning Your Writing

Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



Spring is synonymous with cleaning. Whether it is your home, garden, work desk or car, it is time to give everything a good scrub.

Let’s apply the same principle to your writing.

Do have favorite words or phrases? Do you find yourself using them way too many times in your manuscripts? Don’t kid yourself. Readers notice.

One of my favorite authors uses “padded” constantly instead of “walked.” It drives me crazy by the end of the book. “She padded downstairs.” “He padded down the hall.” Ugh.

Get rid of go-to words. Find something new. Read a thesaurus.

Obviously, writers love words and wordplay, but sometimes less is better, especially when you are repeating yourself.

Be on the lookout for these five common redundancies in your writing.

ATM (Machine). The acronym ATM stands for “Automated Teller Machine.” You are writing automated teller machine machine if you use this phrase.

(Absolutely) essential. The word “essential” means necessary or indispensable. Adding the “absolutely” does not amp up its importance. It slows down your prose.

(Completely) annihilate, destroy or engulf. Using the same concept as stated above, “completely” does nothing to enhance the enormity of annihilate, destroy or engulf. Cut it.

Dwindle (down). “Dwindle” means to become steadily less. Lose the “down.”

(End) result. A “result” is an effect or conclusion, which naturally happens at the end of something, so adding "end" before it is superfluous.

Comments

angel011 said…
Great post. I don't like redundancy either, and try to kick it out of my writing whenever I find it.

I think that this sort of redundancy makes writers think they gave additional strength to their words; I also think it makes them enjoy their own words, get hypnotized by their own voice, and therefore fail to notice that most of those words are unnecessary.
Kelly Hashway said…
I catch myself doing this all the time. It's easy to pick up on when you read your work aloud. I make sure to fix these repetitions whenever I find them.
Good point, angel011.

Kelly, it does help to read our work aloud. Great tip.

Thank you both for your comments and for stopping by.
Pruning is one of my favourite parts of writing, and even so (even so!) I find the repetitions piling up by the time a 100,000-word manuscript is finished. Still finding them while proof-reading. Will the torture never end?!

If you imagine you have found them all, best to do a "search - find" edit on a computer. That will uncover the full horror.

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