“75% of all revision is eliminating words already written; the remaining 25% is improving the words that remain.” –Theodore Cheney, Getting the Words Right
Mr. Cheney is right. Leaving in extra words is like putting rocks in the reader’s backpack. It only slows him down and makes the journey more difficult. Many writers will set their work aside for 24 hours before editing. This helps to view the piece with “fresh” eyes and a fresh perspective.
Here are several tips to help you identify those extra, unneeded words.
Watch for phrases that tell the reader that you are explaining.
- “It is my personal opinion that” … Since you are the writer, the reader knows that your writing is based on what you think.
- “It goes without saying that” … If it goes without saying you don’t need to say it.
- “It is important to note that” … Unnecessary.
- “Obviously,” … Unnecessary, and the reader might be pushed away by the aggressive statement.
Another clear edit is redundant combinations.
- a free gift … Aren’t gifts supposed to be free?
- true facts … If it’s a fact, it would have to be true, and vice versa.
- painful migraine headache … I don’t even know where to start with this one. A migraine is a very painful headache, and headaches are painful anyway. So two out of three words can instantly be eliminated.
- few in number … Few is not a measurable number. However, few can describe a number. “There were a few minutes left in the day.”
- hot water heater … Water that’s been heated is typically hot. However, we say this a lot in casual conversation.
The goal is not to make everything as short as possible, but to take out any extra words that do not make the meaning more clear.
In the comments below, edit the sentence to eliminate wordiness:
- He dropped out of school on account of the fact that it was necessary for him to support his family.
- What extra words in this blog post could be removed?