Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

Everyone is wordy. Some people’s prose is underdeveloped, yes, but still wordy. Others’ is definitely long-winded and definitely wordy. Most beginners use more words than necessary to express what they mean, but so do many accomplished authors.

All writers need to check themselves carefully in order to produce tight prose because filler words, the extra calories of sentences, can too easily creep in.

Public enemy number one: “The reason is because Stacia wanted to kiss Reese.”

Drop the first four words in this sentence and you haven’t lost a thing. In fact, you’ve probably gained a few readers.

Another troublemaker is “there were/was.” For example, “There were several reasons that Stacia wanted to date Reese.” “There were/was” is often unnecessary. “Stacia wanted to date Reese for several reasons” reads more smoothly, is more direct, and is clearer.

The next instances of wordiness are more subtle. “Stacia reached out a hand and touched Reese.” Usually if you touch someone, the reader will fill in the implication that you reached out a hand, or even merely reached out. So “Stacia touched Reese” will do. The same goes for “Stacia turned and faced Reese.” “Stacia faced Reese” is enough.

Some examples of wordiness are humorous, if you visualize them. Think about this one. “Stacia nibbled the knuckles of Reese’s index finger with her teeth.” Duh. What else would she nibble with?

And some are simply overkill. “Stacia still felt a tremor hidden deep within her that refused to let up.” I’ll leave it to you to rewrite this one, but it could definitely stand revision.

The bottom line? Trim that flab if you want your prose to move.

Editors, how would you revise these examples?

1. The National Gallery of Art, which is in Washington, D.C., and which houses the Mellon, Kress, and Widener collections, is one of the largest marble structures in the entire world.

2. When the fans in the stadium shout and yell, the shouting and yelling is deafening, and so the total effect of all this is that it is a contributing factor in decisions to stay home and watch the games on TV.

3. I am of the opinion that one reason why these two newspapers have such power is because so many people are happy to let the reporters and editors tell them what to think and let them form their opinions for them.

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Shelley Thrasher inflicts her belief that less is more on the authors whose novels she edits. They scream a lot, but generally cave in. Then she asks some of them to write new scenes to increase their word count. And, wonder of wonders, they seem to appreciate it.

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5 comments :

  1. Cute dog!

    Usually in a second or third edit, and I do a lot, I figure out ways to say what I want to say by using less words. The first time I think I've got it right, but I learn later it isn't the case.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
    http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1. The National Gallery of Art, which is in Washington, D.C., and which houses the Mellon, Kress, and Widener collections, is one of the largest marble structures in the entire world.
    REWRITE:
    The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. houses the Mellon, Kress and Widener Collections and is one of the largest marble structures in the world.


    2. When the fans in the stadium shout and yell, the shouting and yelling is deafening, and so the total effect of all this is that it is a contributing factor in decisions to stay home and watch the games on TV.

    YIKES!!! Don't have enough time to even try to rewrite that one. :-) Can't wait to see what some of the other editors do.

    3. I am of the opinion that one reason why these two newspapers have such power is because so many people are happy to let the reporters and editors tell them what to think and let them form their opinions for them.

    REWRITE:
    It is my opinion that these two newspapers have so much poer because people allow the reporters and editors tell them what to think.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm not an editor and I don't envy any of you. I got a headache reading those three examples. Can't wait to see the edited versions.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think everyone took a look at those re-writes and said, "I think I'll start cooking that turkey dinner." LOL. Happy holiday to everyone in America.

    Dani
    http://quickest.blogbooktourguide.ever.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post. I am, unfortunately, guilty on all counts. I vow to improve.

    I'm not an editor so I will not attempt to rewrite either of those. I think Maryann has done a fine job.

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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