The Write Stuff
January 2011 Volume 7 Issue 1
Put Your Copy on a Diet
January is the biggest month for making weight-loss commitments, so it seems appropriate to focus on cutting out excess from your writing. You’ve heard me say it before, and it’s still true: less is more.
Take a look at these three sets of two sentences and see if you spot the “diets.”
In order to spend time with my niece and nephew, I have to go to Chicago.
To spend time with my niece and nephew, I have to go to Chicago.
The lessons that I’ve learned as a lifelong Cubs fan have often been painful.
The lessons I’ve learned as a lifelong Cubs fan have often been painful.
This article can’t possibly list all of the extra words that writers tend to use.
This article can’t possibly list all the extra words writers tend to use.
The first set features two words that are usually unnecessary when used together: “in order.” The second stars the much overused “that,” and the third has two superfluous words: “of” and yet another “that.”
As you can see for yourself, removing those words does nothing to change the sentences’ meaning. What it does do is tighten up the copy and make it flow a little better…plus it results in eye-pleasing “white space.”
The next time you write something, while you’re reviewing it for errors (which you surely always do), check for fattening words. When you find one, take it out and see if its absence negatively affects the sentence. In almost all cases, you’ll find all you did was lighten up your copy…and we all know being lighter is always a good thing!
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