Monday, August 5, 2013

Editing Tip: Words You Don't Need

Annette M. Irby
Hey everyone, Annette here. As an editor, I occasionally run into some unnecessary words and/or phrases in manuscripts. As an author, I've thrown some of these into my own manuscript. See if you can relate:

Have you ever had to write to a certain word count? Not just a goal, but an actual, set-in-stone number?

Say your publisher’s word count limit is 90,000 words. And say your manuscript rings in at 91,257. What can you do? The overage doesn’t warrant removal of an entire sub-plot thread. Your publisher won’t budge on the limit. And you're going to need that final half-chapter.

Here are some suggestions for non-essential words and phrases you might consider deleting:

That—oftentimes this word can be deleted without changing the meaning of your sentence.

In, as in “in between”—most of the time, you can delete “in.” Try saying the sentence without the “in.” If it works, leave “in” out.

On the—as in “she kissed him on the nose” or “he bussed him on the shoulder” Please delete “on the.” “She kissed his nose.” And “He bussed his shoulder.”

Couldn’t help but / Can't help but—this multi-word phrase is a word-limit saboteur. Ask yourself: Why did I use that phrase here? What do I actually mean? I think sometimes we use clich├ęs like this one out of laziness. Ask yourself: Does this truly fit this scenario? this character? More than likely, you can delete it.

Each and every one—this phrase is redundant. Choose one of these two options. “Each one” is sufficient.

Hit the Delete Button

Go through and do a search and replace on these phrases. You’ll hopefully save yourself some words, while tightening your writing.

Your turn. Have you ever faced the challenge of whittling down your word count? What are some unnecessary phrases or words you’ve deleted from your manuscript?


Annette M. Irby is a published author who runs her own editing business, AMI Editing. She is also an acquisitions editor for Pelican Book Group. See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.