This was originally printed in the SCBWI Bulletin a few years ago, but in critiquing several manuscripts for an upcoming conference, I thought it might be helpful to repost it on my blog for those who insist on writing repetitive redundancies.
By Gayle C. Krause
What kind of title is that? It means the same thing. Exactly my point! Many new writers are absolutely certain that they have assembled together a manuscript adhering to the basic essentials of good writing, combined together with creative imaginings, or true fact, which in my own personal opinion, is exactly the same as stamping it with a negative rejection form before it even gets sent out.
Redundancies are common in the writing of new authors; even some seasoned ones let them slip by. A writer must be aware of words that say the same thing twice. Being a writer in several critique groups, both live and online, I often see simple phrases written by fellow authors, which employ double words that have the same meaning. Sometimes writers, especially new ones, tend to get caught up in the content of their story or article, and fail to realize their wordiness simply destroys the flow. Readers then must reread the paragraph to understand what the writer was trying to say.
Some manuscript doctors suggest you slash and burn, cutting out unneeded words to make the piece more efficient. Although clarity and conciseness is our goal as writers, cutting out our favorite words or passages is not the key, however, checking for a few simple ways to reduce wordiness is.
Redundant phrases are the first place to look. Redundancies arise from three sources:
1. wordy phrases
2. obvious qualifiers
3. using two or more synonyms together
One pair of words most commonly overused is repeat again. Either use repeat, or again, but not both. Below are a few others.
i.e. advance planning, invited guest, old adage, continue on, end result, final conclusion, free gift, identical match, new innovation, refer back, sudden impulse, sum total
It is also the author’s responsibility to choose powerful words for their writing. This technique is referred to as direct writing. They should make their words do their own work and not prop them up with over inflated phrases that don’t really mean anything. These phrases tend to make the piece wordy. Stronger words without supporting phrases make the piece more readable.
i.e. suggestions for replacements of wordy phrases
a considerable number of………………….many
at the present time………………………….now
based on the fact that………………………because
despite the fact that………………………..although
in connection with…………………………regarding
There are numerous strong words, which can replace weak ones or wordy phrases. The use of a thesaurus is essential in writing, and even then some phrases or words still need to be replaced.
By keeping these few tips in mind as you write, or revise you will pare down verbosity and make your writing stronger, clearer and more concise. A writing style that is crisp and clear will attract an editor’s eye. J
Ratgirl writing sample:
Whoever said the teen years were the best of a girl’s life didn’t come from Metro City. Hell, they can’t imagine what it’s like to be me, living in a sewer tunnel by day, and foraging the forest for food, or scavenging through abandoned mansions at night. Anything I find, that I can’t use to survive this hellhole I trade for money.
And then, there’s the Megamark Guards, who patrol this dying city. I avoid them at all cost. One never knows when they’ll turn on you. I’ve seen them beat up the homeless on a wager, or for sheer entertainment. No, it’s not an easy life.
We used to live in brick houses and modern apartments, but the sun’s savage rays turned our lives upside down. It took a while to get used to sleeping in the day, but night, as dangerous as it is, is the only time we can venture to the surface to seek food or trade our services.
Between the deadly daytime sun, and the vindictive Guards, I spend half my time surviving, and the other half planning how to. If this is the best part of my life, I might as well be dead. Only one thing keeps me alive . . . .