Words and phrases that kill writing

Many of the great writers of all times speak of writing clearly, concisely, and using less words. A valuable gift for your readers is to write for them, not yourself.

Communicating with clarity is probably one of the most difficult writing tasks. Somehow through the years, we are taught that longer sentences and verbose words create the impression of intelligence. The opposite is true: it makes writing harder to read and frustrates the reader.

We communicate too much; we try to impress.  Our efforts are sabotaged without our noticing it. What the reader receives is a longer, muddled message – the opposite of your intention.

The worst scenario is that your reader puts down your piece or clicks away. Keep your content clean and simple.

Thomas Jefferson sums it up in 17 words:

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
–Thomas Jefferson

And even more succinctly: “Half my life is an act of revision.” – John Irving.

Start with a few tricks. First, use a proposition instead of a phrase as in the samples below:

[underline = before; italics = after]

Use of “in accordance with” and “in terms of.”

A gambling casino can’t be within two hundred yards of any school, daycare or religious facility in accordance with the city’s ordinance.

Rev: A gambling casino … facility under the city’s ordinance.

In terms of the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Ms. Bennett, the author stated …

Rev: about Mr. Darcy and Ms. Bennett’s relationship.

Use of Regarding and About:

The student asked a question regarding his homework.

Rev: The student asked a question about his homework.

Use of ameliorate:

Yes, ameliorate is a great word. Professionals, especially lawyers, love it. But are you always speaking to an audience of that level or perhaps professionals who don’t normally use that word?

In an attempt to ameliorate (improve) the situation, Superman flew into action and saved the young woman from the villain.

Here are a few quick examples of more phrases:

Due to the fact that: To simplify, use because.

Needless to say: If it’s needless to say, why say it? Simply write your sentence without it; the meaning won’t change.

Needless to say, he will continue with his education with college.

He will continue …

All of the: “of” is completely unnecessary unless it is followed by a pronoun, “all of us”; “all of them.”

I finished all of the the cupcakes.

Rev: I finished the cupcakes.

When you read or edit you writing, or read it aloud, some of these unnecessary phrases will now begin to stand out. Most of the time, your writing will be improved, your message will be understood, and your words will flow much easier for the reader.

Another quote:

“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


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