Brevity; what not to write (Or, what to cut)


Attention span is short. Time is valuable. Your reader has infinite options of things to spend his time on, other than your story. His attention is earned and you have to fight to keep it. You do this by making every word count. Excessive lines can come from a number of sources, such as unnecessary verbs, redundancy, over-explaining, clichés, jargon and so on.

Trimming these out of your writing will ultimately strengthen your story by packing a far more efficient punch. Your reader is kept engaged by continuing to feast his eyes on new information rather than no-shit-sherlock worthy words. Give the reader a little credit. He will understand, without every detail needing to be explained. When in doubt, take it out. Watch out for clauses that work well in speech but do not translate well to written word.

Sentences that say nothing or false information.

There are times when you get so carried away with writing that you forget to pause a minute and think about the actual meaning of the words and their role in the sentence. Mistakes sneak into the lines this way.

Example: You needn’t do the math to figure out the number.
Yes. Yes you do. That is what math is.

Example: Autumn is a great time to enjoy the region’s ambient weather.
Ambient means “surrounding area/ environment”. Sure it sounds nice, but the word isn’t fitting.

Using metaphors is excellent if you can craft them so beautiful that they enhance the story and provide the reader with pleasure from having read it. However, as a rule, if it doesn’t enhance your reader’s experience, kill it.


Avoid adverbs that weigh the story down

Adverbs are another source of trouble, by adding words that actually weigh your story down. Writers commonly attempt to use them to pack a punch, but the effect can be quite the opposite.

Example: She quickly grabbed the gun off the table. She snatched the gun off the table.

Watch out for adverbs that add little solid information, such as: very, really, unbelievably, truly, totally. Also watch out for adverbs that try too hard: cruelly, sexily, angrily, menacingly.

Example: The common cold is known to occur notoriously often in autumn.
The common cold often occurs in autumn.

Notorious means that something is well known. The cold being common, means it is well known.