Articles / On Editing

5 Ways to Cut the Wordiness in Your Manuscript

 

Have you received a rejection letter that says “Wordy!”? Has your editor asked you to cut some of the clutter? Do you want to streamline your submission to improve your chances of publication? Here are some quick tips that can help:

1. Search for phrases like started to, began to, headed to, decided to, reached to, turned to, etc., and remove them. In general, these phrases don’t add anything to your manuscript except more words.

I decided to go to the grocery store to stock up for the weekend.

Using decided to is wordy. Cut the phrase for a more direct approach.

I went to the grocery store to stock up for the weekend.

2. Search for phrases like I feel, I see, I hear, I know, etc., and remove those, too. Terms like these not only clutter up the sentence, they draw the focus away from the action, where it should be.

I see the leaves blowing in the wind.

The subject of the sentence is I when it should be the leaves.

The leaves blow in the wind.

3. Be careful of inadvertent redundancies. There are some phrases you don’t even realize are redundant until it’s pointed out.

He nodded his head.

What else is he going to nod? You only ever need to say He nodded. Really.

A few other redundancies that come to mind:

  • down to the basement
  • advance planning
  • added bonus
  • close proximity
  • end result
  • unexpected surprise

4. Search for the word that and look at each use. Chances are you can remove more than half of the instances found in your manuscript. That is used to help sentence flow, and just as often as not, is necessary for clarity and understanding. But when a sentence is clear without it, remove it.

She thought that the sweater was ugly.

It’s not wrong, just not necessary.

She thought the sweater was ugly.

Along the same vein, search out other filler terms like that is, who is, off of, which are, with this, etc., and see if those can be removed, as well.

5. Search for terms that add uncertainty to your writing and remove those. Some of those terms are:

  • nearly
  • almost
  • barely
  • really
  • just
  • definitely
  • basically
  • entirely

What examples can you think of to help streamline your manuscript?  Leave some ideas in the comments.

 


Comments

  1. Contracting words can help such as ‘had not’ to hadn’t, ‘you are’ to you’re, ‘she had’ to she’d. It can also help to make dialogue sound more natural and the writing less ‘stuffy’, though I’ve found some editors prefer the ‘uncontracted’ form.

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