That’s – Just – So…. Unnecessary!

One of the biggest buzz words editors throw out to us writers is succinct. Be succinct. Succinct. Succinct. Succinct.

What the heck does that mean? Somebody Puh-lease slow down, take a minute and TELL ME!

Okay. I’ll get you started.

When I started hearing succinct a few years ago, it drove me nuts. Bonkers. Cray-cray. How succinct could 80,000 words really be? I mean *guffaw* Am I right? Well, I was wrong. Writing is all about the word choices you make. Succinct says: Tell the story without wasting any words.And: ┬áDon’t use one that’s unnecessary. And: Pick good ones. Here’s an example of some MAJOR craptastic word offenders.

1. I just couldn’t wait for someone to ANSWER ME!

Cut the “just” because it adds nothing to the sentence. It’s known as a filler word. Cut it. Run a “Find” in Word and Search for “just” then cut them. <– my advice which you can ignore, scoff at or crush under foot. I’m hard to offend.

2. He knew that she wanted flowers.

What does “that” add to this sentence? Nada. Search your manuscript for “that” and evaluate each. “That” is a wildly overused and abused word by writers. Cut them wherever possible.

3. She was so pretty. He wanted to win so bad. They ran so fast. What does “so” add to these sentences? Meh. Not much. In fact, in these instances, it’s a double offender to me. For one thing it’s a writer’s excuse to rise above the uber pathetic word, “very”. Replacing “very” with “so” is a fail. Both kinda suck. If you’re counting on “so” or “very” to show a reader how much…then rewrite the sentence. I beg you, please. Weak doesn’t begin to describe these words. Boo.

For the pretty one above Try: No starlet could compare to her in grace or stature….blah blah, you get it. Much better than “She was so pretty”. Unless your MC is in gradeschool, then, yeah, she might think like that : so pretty…but I’m trying to be very general.

OR: Winning meant he mattered. — It’s the top of my head, don’t judge me…but it’s better than he wanted to win “so bad” <–Bore snore.

Filler words are not only ugly and weak and annoying to editors and readers alike, they are giant neon signs blinking out “AMATEUR” across your manuscript. You don’t want that.

While I’m on the topic of unnecessary….skip the redundancy. It’s plain silly. Examples?? OK.

She whispered softly. <– No joke? For reals? Whispered softly? Not at the top of her lungs? Der.

He ran quickly. <– Wow. How insightful. Unless he’s injured, I assume he ran quickly or he’d be walking. Also if he is crippled or injured he’s probably hobbling. Struggling not “running quickly.”

Same thing for Yelled loudly, smiled happily. You get it. Redundant = bad.

Also note these offenders I mentioned are -ly words. Ly words annoy people too. And so do dialogue tags other than he or she said, so use those sparingly. I’ll write about those later.

Hope I gave you lots of words to cut! LOL Not really. I just hope that I helped.

9 comments to That’s – Just – So…. Unnecessary!

  • This was succinct AND helpful. i am going to edit more carefully from now on. Thanks, Erin

  • Strunk and White and their thuggish copy editor devotees will be the death of artistry in the English language.

  • SJ

    There’s a difference between artistry and weak writing. True artistic writing flows with out distraction. You are so engaged in the story itself that the writing disappears. It shouldn’t be laborious to get through a paragraph.

  • Fantastic! These are great tips. Sharing on Facebook and Twitter. Over and out.

  • Guilty of probably ALL of these *sigh* Now comes revision 7 :D
    Thanks for the post!

  • Libby

    I always start with the intentions of never using these words, and by the time I have finished, I forget all about them-lost in my manuscript. This was a magnificent reminder, and I’m heading to my WIP to word find and slash away. Thank you!

  • Tzipporah

    Okay great point… so I guess it’s odd that it drives me batty when people leave out the “that” in sentences? It just sounds like bad English and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to look past that even in the hopes of being more succinct. (I also hate the word “succinct”, but that’s another issue all together.)

  • Tzipporah :) You used the word “that” five times in your comment! LOL

  • Tzipporah

    yep ;) Exactly!

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