This week, multi-published romance and romantic suspense author, Carol McPhee, shares her thoughts with us on Overwriting.
Wordiness weakens the force of expression. Conciseness alone doesn’t achieve effective writing, but it is hard for a writer to write forcefully if two or three words are used to convey the idea one word could express.
Examples: John is going to plan to write you soon.
John will write to you soon.
Students who disobey the rules will be separated from the university.
Students who disobey the rules will be expelled.
When I first started submitting chapters to a critique group I joined years ago, several of the critiquers harped on my verbosity. My question to them was: were not all words equal and shared the right to be used? Apparently not. In today’s fast-paced world, readers want to get to the crux of the story and not be led into a maze of unnecessary words. Overly long sentences put the reader at a loss as to the writer’s point before the end is reached. Wordy writing characterized by excessive detail, needless repetition, and convoluted sentence structures can derail the most passionate of readers. It makes the writing uninteresting and tedious.
To avoid wordiness in your writing:
Eliminate words which are redundant or superfluous: Redundancies, such as "cooperate together," "close proximity," "red in color," "small in size" or "end result," make thinking sloppy and tax the reader’s patience. In effective writing, every word serves a purpose. Take out empty words or phrases that do not affect the sentence’s meaning.
(along the lines of) - replace with - like
(as a matter of fact) in fact
(at all times) always
(because of the fact that) because
(by means of) by
Eliminate empty words and phrases: To avoid wordiness, combine two or more sentences to form one compact sentence.
Wordy: The headlights were bashed in and there was some superficial damage to the body. Otherwise, the mini-van seemed to be in excellent condition.
Concise: Aside from bashed-in headlights and superficial damage to the body, the mini-van seemed to be in excellent condition.
Reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words:
Wordy: The pine forest, which was glazed with shimmering ice, offered breathtaking silence.
Concise: The pine forest, glazed with shimmering ice, offered breathtaking silence.
Wordy: For her birthday, Shirley received a gown made of taffeta.
Concise: For her birthday, Shirley received a taffeta gown.
Use strong verbs as opposed to weasel verbs that suck the power from your sentences:
Weak verbs such as "is, has, took, gave and make," lengthen sentences needlessly. Verbs such as "kindle, carve, and race" invigorate sentences quickly and efficiently.
Wordy: The carpenters made slow advancement, and building costs were making a steady climb.
Concise: The carpenters advanced slowly and building costs climbed.
Wordy: The janitor’s duty is to lock up the school and check to see whether all windows are closed.
Concise: The janitor locks up the school and checks that the windows are closed.
Use the active voice to strengthen your sentences
The active voice stresses the actor in a sentence, whereas the passive voice stresses the receiver. Since the passive voice results in unnecessary clutter without making writing more direct, and forceful, use the active voice.
Wordy: The house was painted by the students.
Concise: The students painted the house.
Wordy: The apartment buildings were leveled by the hurricane.
Concise: The hurricane leveled the apartment buildings.
Eliminate expletive constructions: An expletive construction is a sentence that begins with "there" or "it" and postpones the sentence’s subject. Even though expletive constructions are effective in showing a change in direction, they frequently produce wordiness.
Wordy: There are three books lying open on the table.
Concise: Three books lay open on the table.
I hope I have given you insight into checking your own writing to improve its readability.
Available now from Champagne Books
Bio: Carol lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her hero of almost fifty years. Writing was never on her radar screen until she faced a serious health issue and needed distraction. She began reading romance novels, discovering the tales seemed to feed the same threads-boy meets girl, conflict breaks them apart but problem resolution leads to a happy ending. She longed for more intensity on the characters’ journey. Thus None So Blind germinated in her mind. Her belief that this story would be her only writing venture proved faulty when Undercover Trouble ripped onto her keyboard, followed by many other romance stories.
Visit Carol on the web at: http://carolmcphee.webs.com/