Writing is hard. Very rarely does it flow out of you perfectly formed. Some people may think they can write a perfect first draft, but most of us know a perfect first draft just doesn’t exist—as much as we would love it to. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to hone your first draft into a powerful piece of writing. Often, this involves cutting out unnecessary words. As you revise, remind yourself that every word must pull its weight; if you suspect a freeloader, let it go. Here are three common areas where unnecessary words tend to congregate.
- Throat-clearing phrases. Writing is so daunting, people want to warm up a little, clear their throats before they begin to speak. This is absolutely fine—as long as you do the throat-clearing off stage. Ask yourself: What is the main message? And then get straight to that main message. Don’t waste your reader’s time building up to it. That’s something you should do in private, offstage or in your first draft.
It is important to note that the office will be closed on July 1. (The office will be closed on July 1).
This is to inform you that the dates for the festival have changed. (The dates for the festival have changed.)
There are three employees who volunteered to help. (Three employees volunteered to help.)
I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to send you the report until the end of the day. (I will send you the report at the end of the day.)
- Unnecessary phrases (when one word will do). Writers do this all the time without thinking. But when you use these stock phrases, all of your personality, all of the liveliness of your voice is gone—and with it, the reader’s attention. Please, take the time to really think about the phrases you are using. Ask: can I replace a common phrase with one word?
Due to the fact that (because)
With regard to (about)
Is in a position to (can)
For the purpose of (to)
In all probability (probably)
In the event that (if)
In the near future (soon)
- Redundant words. Redundancies occur when two (or more) words mean the same thing, or when a modifier contains the meaning of the word it modifies. Redundancies can be quite funny to someone who catches them, but unintentional humour is never a good idea in professional writing. If you want to be funny, by all means, be funny, but make sure you’re in on the joke. Here are a few examples of this common error:
True facts (a fact is true by definition)
Visible to the eye (as opposed to the ear?)
Personal opinion (an opinion is always personal, which is why it is an opinion, not a fact.)
Added bonus (a bonus is by definition something added.)
Each and every (these are synonyms)
Today’s modern world (as opposed to yesterday's?)
Browse through (to browse is to look through something, so through is already contained in the definition).
Throat clearing, unnecessary phrases, and redundant words are too common in writing. Taking a few minutes to eliminate them can do wonders for your message. You have something important to say, so why not uncover it a little more? Let those freeloading words go so that your message is stronger, clearer, and more thoughtful. Your reader will love you for it.