Showing posts with label extraneous words. Show all posts
Showing posts with label extraneous words. Show all posts

Monday, December 8, 2014

Those Pesky Extras

(This post originally ran Feb, 8, 2012)

I recently learned a new term: Pleonasm. Is it a murder suspect? A graffiti artist? A practical joker?

Turns out, it’s nothing quite so mysterious. A pleonasm is a word or phrase, which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, John walked to the chair and sat down. “Down” is a pleonasm and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Although I was not familiar with the term, I did know them when I saw them. In fact, part of my editing advice revolves around deleting extraneous words. Words such as “that,” “very,” “both,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

Here’s another phrase that nearly everyone is guilty of: “The sky held a myriad of stars.” Myriad means “countless.” So the correct use is “The sky held myriad stars.” (Simply substitute the word countless for myriad.) That eliminates two extraneous words.

And then there is the word “unique.” We are inundated with varying degrees of “uniqueness” every day: “That was a rather unique movie.” “Your story is very unique.” What’s next—uniquely unique? Unique means “the only one of its kind.” Unique is unique. It doesn’t need any modifiers

I also caution to watch use of “ly” words. These words are often used to prop up weak verbs. For example: “She walked quickly” can be stronger if written “She strode” (or bounded or rushed). Likewise with the “to be” verbs (was, were, had been, etc.) especially when used with an “ing” verb. “She was walking” is better as “She walked.”

Some authors like to use taglines (he said, she said) plus an action: “…she said, taking a sip of coffee.” The simple action is sufficient: “She took a sip of coffee.”
You also don’t need to describe two actions at once: She nodded and smiled. He puffed himself up and took a swig...

A writer friend of mine is looking at every sentence in her manuscript and challenging herself to remove at least one word from each. She has cut 14,000 words from a 400-page manuscript.

I challenge you to go one step farther: see if you can delete an entire phrase from a sentence, an entire sentence from a paragraph, a paragraph from a scene.
Hunt down and exterminate those “Pesky Pleonasms.”
----------------------------
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona.
Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, the sequel, Follow the Dream,  won the national WILLA Award, and Dare to Dream rounds out the trilogy. In addition a non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, edits, and blogs. 




Friday, July 13, 2012

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, www.mariettataylor.net.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Avoiding Extraneous Words

I recently learned a new term: Pleonasm. Is it a murder suspect? A graffiti artist? A practical joker?

Turns out, it’s nothing quite so mysterious. A pleonasm is a word or phrase, which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, John walked to the chair and sat down. “Down” is a pleonasm and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Although I was not familiar with the term, I did know them when I saw them. In fact, part of my editing advice revolves around deleting extraneous words. Words such as “that,” “very,” “both,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

Here’s another phrase that nearly everyone is guilty of: “The sky held a myriad of stars.” Myriad means “countless.” So the correct use is “The sky held myriad stars.” (Simply substitute the word countless for myriad.) That eliminates two extraneous words.

And then there is the word “unique.” We are inundated with varying degrees of “uniqueness” every day: “That was a rather unique movie.” “Your story is very unique.” What’s next—uniquely unique? Unique means “the only one of its kind.” Unique is unique. It doesn’t need any modifiers

I also caution to watch use of “ly” words. These words are often used to prop up weak verbs. For example: “She walked quickly” can be stronger if written “She strode” (or bounded or rushed). Likewise with the “to be” verbs (was, were, had been, etc.) especially when used with an “ing” verb. “She was walking” is better as “She walked.”

Some authors like to use taglines (he said, she said) plus an action: “…she said, taking a sip of coffee.” The simple action is sufficient: “She took a sip of coffee.”
You also don’t need to describe two actions at once: She nodded and smiled. He puffed himself up and took a swig...

A writer friend of mine is looking at every sentence in her manuscript and challenging herself to remove at least one word from each. She has cut 14,000 words from a 400-page manuscript.

I challenge you to go one step farther: see if you can delete an entire phrase from a sentence, an entire sentence from a paragraph, a paragraph from a scene.
Hunt down and exterminate those “Pesky Pleonasms.”

-------------------------
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

Write for the Reader, Not for Yourself

  By Karen Cioffi Years ago, a client told me that I don’t write for the client; I don’t even write for myself; I write for the reader. This...