The Power of Less

I love words.  Because I was so enamored with words, before I could read, I would memorize each page in a book. Then if my parents weren't available, I could "read" to myself. Words were my friends. The more, the merrier. When I became a writer I learned that less is more. 

I don't naturally do well with the writer's scissors. I'm wordy. Most of my edits involve simplifying phrases and cutting unnecessary words . For instance, my opening sentence initially was "I love words, be they written or spoken." Although I liked that last half, the sentence only required the first three words. I have four tools tips that help me make perform surgery on my words.

Create your own cut list. Make a list of common words you can cut. Some examples are:  that, who, there (there is, there are), and, very, really, just, quite, perhaps, but, however, well, also. Using a word search I find each instance of a word. If I can rewrite the sentence or it holds it's essence without that word, it hits the cutting floor. 

Replace or cut repetitive words and phrases. In each piece, we all have words or phrases we overuse. Highlight those words or phrases, then either replace or cut it. In one short story I was able to reduce my word count by fifteen by removing the word apparently. 

Cut by 25%. I write devotions so this is a bit easier for me. If my devotion is 400 words, I cut it down to 300 words. I repeat the process until it is tight but with soul. For novels, you can do this by chapter.

Read it aloud. You can find word flow issues when you read aloud. I've cut words by rearranging and removing sentences that broke up the flow of the piece. This is not always a quick process. But it's worth the effort. 

After applying these tips, you'll find that you didn't need the words that met the scissors. Writing for clarity means determining what's dead wood and removing it. It's not always easy, but definitely necessary. 

About the Author:

Marietta "Mari" Taylor is the the author of Surviving Unemployment Devotions To Go. Find out more about Mari at her blog or her website,


Shirley Corder said...

Thank you for this good reminder, Mari. I too am wordy. Hey! Aren't most of us? We love words. The more the merrier.
I hate having to "kill my darlings" but always have to admit the writing is far better once I have done so.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

After slicing words out of my manuscripts, they are always better

Karen Cioffi said...

Great tips, Mari. Tightening is a necessary part of writing. I love words too, it's a shame we're in a time period when you can't write lavishly.

Heidiwriter said...

Excellent tips, Mari. We all start out using all the words we can possibly cram into a manuscript :) As an editor, I'm always reminding my clients of those extraneous words.

Donna McDine said...

Yes, cutting these simple words certainly makes the manuscript flow better it helps keep the word count down. Thanks for the tips and reminder.

All the best,

Margaret Fieland said...

Mari, thanks for the reminder. Although I tend to be too terse rather than too verbose, I can still find things I need to cut or rewrite.

Debbie A Byrne said...

Great post!

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Certainly going to bookmark this to send to my authors. Thanks Mari.

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