Take Extra Words Out of Your Writing and Add Clarity

To Whack Wordiness, Delete Wobbly Words

This is part of a series by editor Barbara McNichol to provide tips for writing like a pro.

To take extra words out of your writing and add clarity, the easiest approach is to attack wobbly words. What do I mean by wobbly words?

Well, they’re words that are vague, indefinite, and don’t add much to the meaning of a sentence. In fact, they can add word clutter your paragraphs and detract from what you strive to say.

In their classic guide The Elements of Style, Strunk and White call word clutter “the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood out of words.” Count the following six wobbly words among the word clutter culprits!

Whack these from your writing whenever you can:

  • really   “I really think it’s time to go.” (extraneous)
  • some   “We rely on some three long-standing methods.” (state a number instead)
  • quite a few   “We have quite a few 12 new people at work.” (be specific)
  • very   “Get ready to do a very an extremely good job.” (overused; be descriptive!)
  • that   “Find information that you can apply easily.” (often unneeded)
  • much   “Jobs posted on the Internet reach a much larger audience than those in newspaper ads.” (“much” doesn’t add much, right?)

Your challenge: Go back to the beginning of your email, letter, or article and circle all instances of these wobbly words. Then replace them with more descriptive alternatives.

Today’s Word Tripper from Word Trippers Tips:

That, who – “That” relates to things while “who” relates to people. “I have a friend who did me a favor, one that I greatly appreciated.”

When you know how to write with precision, your professional reputation builds and your career can soar. Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping business professionals add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created an annual subscription program called Word Trippers Tips. It features 52 Word Trippers of the Week, a webinar, crossword puzzle, writing tips, and the ebook Word Trippers: The Ultimate Source for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters. Details at www.WordTrippers.com/odi.

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