Monday, June 29, 2015

How Tight is Your Writing? - Guest Post by Karen Lange

I'm happy to welcome Karen Lange, author, teacher, and former homeschool mom, to my blog. Karen agreed to do a guest post on writing tight. Enjoy!

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

Thomas Jefferson

This is one of my favorite writing quotes. I think of it as the bumper sticker for word economy.

If, as Jefferson suggests, we examine our writing, looking for places where one word will replace two, can we sharpen our prose?

I think so, and I've long believed that crisp writing makes a great statement. It is also necessary to meet word counts. Weeding out unnecessary words and phrases helps communicate without clutter and fluff.

Here are a few ways I eliminate that dreaded "clutter and fluff":

1) Ditch excess modifiers and hedging words. Words like very, really, quite, fairly, kind of, and truly don't add as much emphasis as we think. When removed, the result is cleaner and nothing is compromised.

2) Remove empty phrases. Trim out phrases like there seems to be, in order to, needless to say, on account of, and what I mean is for clear, crisp statements. 

3) Don't be redundant. When phrases like free gift, past history, honest truth, and end result are pared down to gift, history, truth, and result we've heeded Mr. Jefferson's advice, haven't we?

Does Jefferson's quote strike any chords with you? What methods do you employ to tighten your writing? 

Karen Lange is a freelance writer and editor, an online writing instructor, and the author of Write for Life and Homeschool Co-ops 101. She is a fan of dark chocolate, ice hockey, and hanging out with her 7-year-old grandson. Connect with Karen on her blog, Twitter – KLELange, and on her Facebook author page.


Karen Lange said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today. It's always fun to stop by your place! :)
Love and blessings,

Ceil said...

Hi Karen and Susan! I do like the quote from Jefferson, and agree with him too. I used to be really awful at self-editing, and I'm still not the greatest at it, but I know I tend to be too wordy.

Cutting the fluff is a great idea, because usually, I overwrite and have to start snipping to create some clarity. Most readers appreciate a person who can 'get to the point', and let's face it, none of us wants to lose a reader! I hope I can continue to learn about good editing. It sure is a gift!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

It's always a delight to have you here on Christian Writer/Reader Connection. I apologize for not getting the word out this morning. I had problems with my Internet connection.

God bless,
Susan :)

H. R. Sinclair said...

Awesome tips. While I'm editing I tend to read the paragraph twice - one to remove those unneeded words.

Marja Verschoor-Meijers said...

Thanks Susan for hosting Karen... what a great quote (I made it a tweet). My writing is pretty straight forward due to my limited English vocabulary :) but I do see how I can still do some fine tuning and forget about trying to make it more elegant. Awesome, thanks.

Laurel Garver said...

Great tips. Pithiness takes time and practice. We all use hedging words so much in speech, they creep into our writing. I see a lot of wordy grammatical constructions in pieces I edit for work, often insecure PhD students trying to sound knowledgeable. But the best academic writers are the ones who make complex ideas simple rather than the reverse.

Karen Lange said...

Thank you! It does take time and practice, I agree. Was editing a guest post this evening; I realized I had more of them than I thought sneak in there!
Happy writing,

quietspirit said...

Susan: Thank you for having Karen in as a guest blogger. I believe I understand the cutting of extra modifiers better than I did.

Karen: As usual, a great job.

Karen Lange said...

I am so glad you found this helpful! I remind myself of these points all the time. :) It's always a process, isn't it? Thanks for checking out the post!

Anonymous said...

Great list. I try to cross these off when editing. I wrote in excess when I was younger, so I've gotten better at being concise.

Karen Lange said...

Thanks so much! Sounds like you've had a lot of practice over the years. It really does take time and effort.
Happy writing,

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Good advice here, ladies. Thanks for sharing! :-)

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for stopping by and weighing in! Appreciate your support!