Some days I flex my writing muscles. Other days, red pen in hand, I’m trimming and toning flabby writing.
By that I mean reviewing a document for typos, jargon, wayward punctuation, grammar errors, the passive voice and other writing that stops readers in their tracks.
If you want to trim, tone and buff flabby writing, try these seven tips:
1. Reduce wordiness
- In order to –> to
- Provide enhancements to –> enhance or improve
- Is a reflection of –> reflects
- On a daily basis –> every day
2. Trade long, multi-syllable words for short ones
- Approximately –> about
- Additional –> more
- Utilization –> usage
- Presently –> now
3. Be active, not passive
- It was decided (who decided?)
- An issue has been identified (who identified it?)
4. Get rid of jargon
- Will be tasked with –> will need to
- Incentivize –> encourage
- Leverage –> use, make use of
- Skillsets –> skills
5. Use the right 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 just comprised)
- Myriad of (should be myriad, no ‘of’)
- Very unique (it’s either unique or it’s not)
6. Straighten up inconsistencies
- 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. Hunt down and fix 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.
This post updates one created in 2014, which I discovered a friend has been sharing with her writing students. (Thanks! And happy writing to the students.) Image: “tiverylucky” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.