Words are a terrible thing to waste. Yet, most writers carelessly throw words around with little regard for their usefulness. The truth is that most things I read could easily be cut in half without sacrificing any clarity. In fact, cutting the cutting in half would actually make it better. The message would be tighter, more focused, and more impactful.
I’m not just pointing the finger at other writers, by the way. I’m positive that I’m guilty of wasting words too. I look back on many old blog posts I’ve written and realize that I could have easily cut out huge chunks of fluff to make the post tighter and a better read. But the battle against circumlocution is one that nearly every writer struggles with. We’re addicted to words, and if our addiction is left unchecked, it can have fatal consequences (for our success, anyway).
So, how do you go about cutting the fluff from your writing?
- Know the purpose of the content—Before you write a single word, know the purpose of the piece. What’s the main message you want to convey? What supporting points need to be included in order for you to clearly convey this message? Write this down and refer to it later.
- Cut out anything that doesn’t contribute to that purpose—After you’ve written your first draft, take a look at what you wrote earlier about the purpose of the content. Refer to that as you edit your first draft. Delete anything that doesn’t contribute to that purpose. If it doesn’t belong, it’s muddling your message.
- Look for repetition—The majority of fluff comes from repetition. While repetition can be an effective literary device for emphasizing a point, more times than not, the writer has no need for saying the same thing twice.
- Eliminate weak, unnecessary words and phrases—Look for phrases like:
- In my opinion
- I think that
- You may want to consider
- Some people find that
You get the point. Weak, throwaway phrases like these usually add nothing to your writing. You can cut them and make your sentences much stronger.