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Nix Unnecessary Words

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger on Jun 5, 2013 6:02:56 AM

There are words in my first book that I now wish I hadn't used. They aren't profane words. In fact, they aren't offensive in any way. They are innocuous words that serve no real purpose. In short, they are unnecessary.


As a young writer, I felt it was my duty to spoon-feed the readers the emotional statuses of my characters, which included piling on unnecessary adjectives, pronouns, and various other tools of the English language. I did this because I lacked confidence in my ability to leave things unsaid and still write effective prose. As I continue to write, I gain the confidence and courage to eliminate those words from my arsenal.


Here are some samples of how I may have written something in the beginning followed by how I would write it today. I think you'll see that even small changes can make a big difference.


  • Then - "Don't come any closer!" he exclaimed.

  • Now - "Don't come any closer!"


The simple use of the exclamation point eliminates the need to state the character exclaimed, shouted, or yelled something.


  • Then - It was a start-up company that was now worth billions.

  • Now - It was a start-up company now worth billions.


Sometimes you need the word "that" to connect two ideas, but more often than not, you don't.


  • Then - It was about 100 degrees.

  • Now - It was 100 degrees.


In this case, "about" is being used as a qualifier. Not only is it unnecessary, it can get in the way. You will be forgiven for making a definitive statement about your fictional world.


These are just a few examples of unnecessary words writers (including me) sometimes use. I will throw in one caveat: if you are using a first person narrator, these "unnecessary" words may indeed be necessary in order to establish your narrator's character. We don't speak in pristine perfectly constructed sentences, and it would be inauthentic for you to force your first-person narrator to do so.


How do you know if a word is truly unnecessary? I've found the best way to identify whether or not you need a word is to read the sentence out loud. Sometimes it's easier to hear what you don't need than it is to see it. Does the sentence still make sense without the extra word?


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Jun 6, 2013 9:15 AM CMSnyder    says:

I appreciate this article!  I keep such things in mind as I write.  While I do like to keep a robust writing style I try to make sure that little-to-none of what I include border on overkill.  Sure, a handful of 'extra' words wouldn't hurt anyone. But as they are overused they can start to build up bloat.  And especially when with going with a service like CreateSpace where page number tends to affect how much readers have to pay to purchase it is like them paying more money for words that did not necessarily add to their overall enjoyment of the book.  Just like everything in life there is a trade-off.  You'll want to include enough in your prose so that readers can see/feel things as closely as possible to how you do in your head as the writer.   But it needs to be used at appropriate times or the reader can feel that it is too verbose...kinda like this comment haha