Trimming Your Writing to Make it Better

Maybe a fourth of the editing I do is cutting words, phrases, sentences, and sometimes paragraphs.  As good old Strunk & White says, just as a machine should have no unnecessary parts, so a sentence should have no unnecessary words.  Literary agent and editor Rachelle Gardner provides a nice list of items that are easily trimmed – which usually results in cleaner, stronger, more compelling writing.

→ Adverbs, especially those with “ly” endings. Ask yourself if they’re necessary.
→ Adjectives. Often people use two or three when one or none is better.
→ Gerunds. Words that end in “ing.”
→ Passive voice: Over-use of words like “was,” “were” and “that” indicate your writing may be too passive. Reconstruct in active voice.
→ Passages that are overly descriptive.
→ Passages that describe characters’ thoughts and feelings in too much detail (i.e. long sections of narrative or interior monologue).
→ Passages that tell the reader what they already know.
→ Unnecessary backstory.

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