Beyond the very first draft of a manuscript (where a writer is getting down the ideas in as flowing a manner as possible) there are certain words which are almost always be better substituted out. When these are swapped for a more precise, descriptive and interesting terms, the writing quality improves. Here I point out half a dozen of the ripest for replacement.
This must go because it is standing in for words which will give the reader a context for what is about to be described, whether that be events or feelings. It is not necessary because if something happens suddenly, telling us this will be slowing the pace down at just the time the action is happening, and the pace has sped up.
This term is okay in a first draft with the excuse that the writer is in their flow and will replace it later. By the second draft, this term should usually be replaced by a more descriptive term, as it is vague to the point of almost meaningless. Substitute with a more precise term which will make the writing more interesting, more rhythmical and more enjoyable to read.
Anything which is really obvious does not need mentioning, and if it is mentioned, it does not need signposting. If the term is left in, it can seem like unnecessary telling, which no reader is likely to appreciate. Any sentence which is obvious can be removed to improve the writing, making it more relevant and more punchy.
There are so many words to choose from to convey what the writer wants the reader to know, and including ‘actually’ is often irrelevant. It rather belittles the rest of the sentence. In editing, actually, is a term, I regularly cull.
Thought to herself
Thought alone says it, there is no need to add the to himself/their self etc. How do you think ‘to anyone else’? No, it is just thought.
Well, sometimes this word has something to add, but more often than not it is best left out. It often points out the obvious, and as such, gets smoothed out in a second draft, best removed.
Trim this lot, and editors will prefer to see your more interesting, fresher word choice. The revised draft will be livelier and tighter. Readers will find your writing more engaging – what’s not to like?
Illustration courtesy of sketchrobin.com
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