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Day 256: 9 Words to Get Rid of In Your Writing

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Day 256:  9 Words to Get Rid of In Your Writing


# of pages written: 8.5

# of literary mags submitted to: 2

I have a flash fiction piece coming out in Compose Journal this spring, and recently the fiction editor asked me to look at a “few little things” that needed reworking in my story. She had uploaded my story onto google docs, and all three of the Compose editors had made comments. A lot of comments. I went through and responded to them, and they commented back. We haggled a bit when I didn’t want to switch the order of two sentences or get rid of a word I thought was necessary.

But I did end up deleting words, reworking a few sentences, and adding a new description to the ending. Through it all, they encouraged and supported me. This, I thought, my heart swelling, must be what it feels like to have a really great editor helping with your novel. Oh, that I might have that one day!

I was amazed that the editors, who are not getting paid, would put so much time and energy into my dinky, three-page story. I was amazed at how picky they were about my sentence structure and word choices. I was amazed and glad. Those detail-oriented editors had me change 1% of my piece, but it made the story 100% better. That’s the power of editing.

Unfortunately, the editors of Compose aren’t always around to put their eagle eyes to my sentences, so I have to learn to edit for myself. Here are some editing tips I constantly remind myself about. Maybe these reminders will be helpful for you, too?


1.  just – I just can’t get enough of this word and just can’t seem to stop using it in my writing. Usually I just have to go through and cut out all the justs. Usually “just” just isn’t needed.

2.  that – Example: She dropped the necklace down the front of her shirt so that the charm rested between her breasts. Do we really need “that”? Take it out and see how it sounds.

3.  said – I’m all for making it clear who says what. But if it’s already clear, cut the “said.” This is especially easy to do when there’s already an action associated with the speaker. For example, change this: “You’re insane,” Diane said, backing away. to “You’re insane.” Diane backed away.

4.  can – Instead of I can hear the crows cawing outside my window or I can feel my breakfast churning in my gut, how about I hear the crows cawing and I feel my breakfast churning.   OR even better, The crows caw outside my window and My breakfast churns inside my gut.  You see how much tighter that is?

5.  seem – Instead of telling how something “seems” tell us how it IS. Let us make our own judgments.

6.  suddenly – In stories everything is always happening without warning. Suddenly the door burst open. Suddenly she turned to me and kissed me. 95% of the time, you can cut the suddenly.

7.  am, was, were – Use active, simple verb structures whenever possible. Instead of We were standing next to the statue write We stood next to the statue.

8.  really, very – Unless they’re really very necessary.

9.  haughtily, forcefully, and other adverbs – As much as I love the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling had a serious case of adverb-itis. So don’t do it the J.K. way. Show us that someone is haughty or forceful by their words and actions.

Slash those unnecessary words!

Slash those unnecessary words!


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

6 responses »

  1. Hey Eva,
    i just wanted to say how helpful this post is, it’s amazing how many time you say these words when writing and just don’t realize, i was kinda shocked at how many times i used the word was in a 40,000 word piece,

    thanks for this 🙂

    • Thanks! Yeah, I came back to this post myself the other day (I was about to say “just the other day.”) I did a search in the novel I’m revising for “just,” and I couldn’t believe how many there were! Most of them were unnecessary.

      • would you mind if i re blogged this on my blog, i do writing tips and i was going to do one about unnecessary words, that’s how i found your post, i think you pretty much cover it all 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Barbarian?… No Just a Tasmanian and commented:
    as I’ve said i do my research before i write an advice post, my next post was going to be on words you should watch out for, this was something i have been told recently, and i decided to look into it. but when i was researching i come across the post, it’s amazing. helped me so much, and sums up what i wanted to talk about very nicely.
    trust me super helpful,
    check it out 🙂

  3. Pingback: 9 Words to Get Rid of in Your Writing | In the Garden of Eva

  4. Reblogged this on Jacy Merrill and commented:
    I’m currently in the major revision cycle! This helped me a ton!


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