Although most of my time is usually spent writing, I’ve had several proofreading and copy editing jobs lately. These are where I review a document for typos, wayward punctuation, grammar errors, the passive voice and other writing that discourages readers and hurts your reputation.
The experience reminded me that you can trim and tone flabby writing by chopping the fat in these seven areas:
- In order to (to)
- Provide enhancements to (enhance or improve)
- Is a reflection of (reflects)
- On a daily basis (every day)
2. Long, multi-syllable words
- Approximately (about)
- Additional (more)
- Utilization (usage)
- Presently (now)
3. Passive construction
- It was decided (who decided?)
- An issue has been identified (who identified it?)
- Will be tasked with (will need to)
- Incentivize (encourage)
- Leverage (use, make use of)
- Skillsets (skills)
5. Wrong use of words
- Less vs. fewer (use fewer with things you can count, less with “mass nouns” like clutter that can’t be counted individually)
- Comprised of (should be composed of or comprised)
- Myriad of (should be myriad)
- Very unique (it’s either unique or it’s not)
- Is a word sometimes capitalized, sometimes lowercase?
- Is a word spelled the same way throughout (email or e-mail)?
- Does a set of bullet points follow the same construction and format (such as starting with a verb)?
7. Spelling errors
- Liason (liaison)
- Cummulative (cumulative)
- Unnesessary (unnecessary)
And don’t forget to look out for the Random Capitalization of odd Words here and There!
What offenders have you seen that contribute to flabby writing? Please share in the comments.
Image: “tiverylucky” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.