Kill These Words

by Chandra Sundeep
Laptop editing

If you use 10 words where 5 suffice, this chop-chop exercise is just for you…

You would have heard of verbal diarrhea, but do you know what is a written diarrhea. It’s a condition when a writer lets out a stream of watery words, diluting the story and scaring the readers away. It’s nothing but a major disaster.

How do we avoid this in our writing? Simple! By being friends with a powerful and ruthless tool–editing. Writing and editing are twins who roam in the world of words together. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship, and they complement each other perfectly.

What makes a story interesting apart from the plot, premise, and characters is the narration. No one likes to read a story which drags on and on. A fast-paced narrative is what readers look for. How to achieve it?

Going lean is the way–once your first draft is ready, re-look at the story. Not as the writer, but as an editor. Extra and unwanted words are like ugly weeds in a beautiful garden. Weed them out!

There are several used and overused words, which bring little value with them. So, which are the words we should aim to kill?

Let’s get to work!

Here’s how to spot out those weeds…

Show the end action rather than tell that it is starting.

Long winding sentences, a zillion words just to know the character is beginning to feel hungry, nah!

  • I was beginning to get bored and started feeling sleepy
  • He started to drool drooled
  • She started to gossip gossiped

Few words creep into our writing, which don’t add any value whatsoever, and we can easily do away with them.

  • His words were really mean and left me completely crushed – his cruel words crushed me

Did you notice removing these words / replacing them makes the sentence tighter?

How often do you ‘look’, ‘turn’ and ‘see?’

We turn and look countless times in actual life, but the reader doesn’t want to be told where the character is looking before an action. Take the plunge and show the action.

  • She turned around and paused to look at him – Their eyes met
  • He turned one more time and kicked the pebble

‘Could’ you or ‘Could’ you not?

‘Could’ is often the biggest enemy of show, don’t tell. ‘Could’ doesn’t allow the reader to visualize the scene as it is unfolding.

  • She could hear the faint creaking of the wooden stairs creaked
  • He could see a strange shadow lurking around lurked

Undiluted works best

Milk, wine or juice–they taste best when not watered down. The same is true for writing. Don’t dilute your sentences by going frilly. A crisp and to the point writing makes all the difference, unless the situation demands otherwise. Really, very, totally, afterwards, absolutely, actually, basically… slacken your narrative. They are best avoided.

  • As far as I am concerned, this is enough.
  • She is definitely very clever intelligent
  • If you ask me, this is certainly going to disappoint her–This will disappoint her

Muscle power

You must use adjectives on a strict need basis. They are useful if you want to slow down the pace, or bring in clarity. Emphasize on always using more strong stronger nouns to minimize use of adjectives.

  • She lives in a big house bungalow
  • He is terribly smelly stinks

And same is the rule with adverbs. Always use strong verbs in your writing, they don’t need any support.

  • The small child kid ran quickly scampered into the garden
  • Don’t tell anyone reveal my secret

A final checklist in this gardening exercise –

  • After the first draft, let your story sit for a while. Fermentation does magic not only to grapes, but even to stories. this rule is true for whatever you write, be it a drabble or the draft of your first novel.
  • Read it out loud and mark the areas which don’t ‘sound good to your ears.’ When you hear your words being spoken out loud, you will know how a reader is going to welcome your thoughts and ideas.
  • Use the find and replace function. Search for most used/ over-used words. Replace them with alternatives. There’s no point in coming across.
  • Look out for bland and vague words, get rid of them. Replace them with a better description.
  • Check the number of words you have removed. At this stage you should give yourself a pat on the back. Good job done, my friend.
  • Make your own list of strong verbs and nouns. It would be your own database of words.

With this chop-chop exercise, your stories would be crispier and just perfect!

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[…] ruthless and cut off every unwanted word, don’t worry about hurting their feelings… just let them know they are still loved and you will […]


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