“To” Phrases. Not Cool Dude. Not Cool.

I haven’t written a post on writing in a while. I’m having a tough time posting at all. Deadlines are up on me — in wonderful, I have books coming! ways. Anyway, as I work with the different editors, they each bring something unique to the table and I am so new at this writing thing, I am constantly learning new stuff. Today I want to tell you about the “to phrase.”

“To” phrases are extra. They’re wasted words. They’re telly. They’re amateurish. Right? *guffaw* Who knew? Not me, and I was the guiltiest guilty of adding these – frequently.


Julie lifted the steamy mug of coffee to her lips. – Where else would she lift it to? Her eye? Readers are smart, they don’t need this for clarification.

Julie lifted the steamy mug to take a sip. – Again, Der. Why else would she do this? To pour it on the table?

Julie dropped her book and stooped to retrieve it. – Duh. I just said she dropped the book and stooped in one sentence.  Would it make sense to say she dropped her book and stooped to feel the carpet? We assume she is retrieving the book. In this case, instead of telling the obvious, eliminate the obvious “to” phrase and replace it with better words, words that tell the reader more. Something unexpected or provide a detail we didn’t expect.

Julie dropped her book onto the wet cobblestone and cursed. OR and sighed. etc. Her reaction shows us something about Julie.

Maybe the book landed on a cartoon X and Julie dug for pirate treasure. Tell the reader anything besides she picked it up. Most boring sentence EVER. Not to mention it doesn’t move the story forward. Writing a sentence whose only purpose is she dropped something and didn’t leave it on the ground…equates to wasted words.

That’s all. A short post, I know. But it’s a simple thing that will tighten your writing and help focus on the things most important and those you can delete.

Disclaimer: Not all words following the word “to” are stupid or pointless. No hate mail please. Search your document for “to” and make sure the words add something useful. If they do, then I give you a double thumbs up. Nicely done.

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