As an editor, I’m regularly asked how to strengthen someone’s writing. The honest answer will always depend on your personal writing style, first and foremost; however, there are a few simple tactics you can start implementing right away to produce strong successful writing. As this is a complex answer to a complex question, so we’ll tackle the answer over the course of a few posts.
This post will focus on a few common words we all could remove from our writing, thus adding more precision for our readers.
Deliver Strong Successful Writing Here After
Take it out. Yes, you heard me: Take it out.
Now, reread your sentence: Does it still make sense? Take this one step further and remove the use of that from your writing.
Tip: If that is referring to a person, replace it with WHO, for a direct object, or WHOM, for an indirect object. When enclosed in a clause, that should be replaced with WHICH.
As English speakers, we tend to become a bit lazy when describing things in our writing. As such, the word thing can often be used lackadaisically instead of more appropriate words detailing what it is you are referring to. Taking the time to think of the right word strengthens your writing and is easier for your readers to understand.
Time spent thinking of the word that best describes what you’re trying to say is time well spent.
A few examples of the words I’ve used to replace ‘thing’ in my clients’ writing recently:
How many? How few?
Are you able to quantify this particular use of many? If so … use it. Be it: 2, 3, 5, 13, 197. Using a precise number in your writing will help your readers obtain a clear grasp of the concept you are describing, or, in this case, quantifying.
** Using literally may cause confusion for your readers. **
If it’s literal, you don’t need to reinforce it. Using concise language will help to convey your message earnestly.
And no, figuratively and literally, are not interchangeable.
Quickly strengthen your paragraphs: Avoid beginning your sentences with there – makes your sentences weak and, quite often, vague.
I know, I know … It’s easier to compose those sentences. But, you did ask for advice on strengthening your writing. Beginning your sentence with there is lazy. Yes, there are instances where there seems to fit most appropriately, but by reworking your sentence ever-so-slightly, you will have a stronger, more concise statement for your readers.
This concludes our first list of words to remove from your writing to produce strong successful writing. Are you prone to using any of these words listed? Since you are now leaving them out, have you noticed new tendencies developing? Leave a comment and tell us what you’ve noticed.