Thursday, April 26, 2007

Put Your Writing On a Diet

Keep it Fat Free –

By Billie A Williams © 2007

What do I mean by putting your writing on a diet? Use precise word choices…use a dictionary or thesaurus to make sure you are creating an image true to what you are trying to convey. If you say dog – I may see my Chow, you may see beagle or poodle. If it’s important to know exactly what kind of dog, car, shoes, whatever – use precise words. Don’t fudge with a general term.

And don’t use three words where one will do. Unnecessary words might increase your word count but it won’t necessarily improve the readability of your work. The editor will strike them out if she even accepts your work with all the padding. There are lists of those you can find by doing a search in Google – the “because of the fact that” use "because"- “I hope to hear from you in the near future” use "soon". You get the idea.

Another way to trim the fat and keep the beef is to avoid unhelpful repetition or redundancies. Sometimes you repeat things without realizing it. Go back through your copy and prune those out wickedly—allow not one to remain. Tight, precise, concise is what you are looking for. Your writing will be stronger for it.

Figures of speech can be colorful additions; they can say more in fewer words. Metaphors, similes, or other figures of speech are easily recognized by the reader and they “get” the picture in an instant. Of course, you need to be sure that you are using appropriate metaphors or similes – not contrived or amateurish, like the list of High School flubs English teachers collected—“Her hair glistened like nose hair after a sneeze,” you get the picture eeeow! Is my first reaction and I’d call that a very bad metaphor.

Raise the intensity of the words you use by choosing strong verbs that express exactly the action you intend to convey. Don’t belabor the page with coaching adverbs. You can use them, but very sparingly as they tend to weaken and confuse not enhance the writing.

As with adjectives, if you are going to tell us her eyes were a pretty blue – why not say her eyes were the color of a Colorado summer sky – or the faded chambray work shirt your grandpa wore. Pretty tells us nothing, blue comes in a million shades—give us precise color.
When you put your writing on a diet it looks good in print (in the mirror). You feel good about it because it is trim and toned to precision. It puts your best foot forward and nearly guarantees a sale and a reading fan.

Write Well
Feel free to share this article just leave the resource box in tact.
Billie A Williams, Author/Freelance Writer

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