Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Challenge!
This year, I’m focusing on two themes: Emotions and grammar,
depending on which letter we’re on each day.
I’ll be sharing mostly what I’ve learned about writing emotion into a novel, but I’ll also be throwing in a few key grammar lessons, pet peeves I’ve picked up while working as an editor.
Today’s a grammar day! (Sort of.)
U is for Unnecessary words: words that are not essential or requisite; indispensable
Thomas Jefferson once said, “Don’t use two words when one will do.” After missing commas and the overuse of present participle phrases, the use of unnecessary words is probably the third most common mistake I see as an editor.
I think this is because, as writers, we love words—our words—and if we happen to compose a beautiful string of them, we loathe deleting a single one. We believe it’s perfect just the way it is, so eloquent, so clever, so impressive. But if you can remove one of those words and have the meaning remain intact, then it’s unnecessary.
George Orwell once said, “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” Less is always better, because words that don’t contribute meaning to a sentence actually weaken it instead.
Orwell also said, “Never use a long word where a short one will do.” When William Faulkner criticized Ernest Hemingway for his narrow use of words, Hemingway replied, “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
I could go on and on, but that would be counterintuitive, wouldn’t it? So I’ll leave you with this: Read each and every sentence you’ve written again and again. If there is a simpler way to write it with shorter and fewer words, do it.
Do you find you can often delete a certain amount of words in your own writing without altering the meaning? Do you do it or leave them because you find them pretty or witty?