Thursday, September 29, 2016

On wordiness and “little timidities”

When you finish the first draft of your memoir, you might feel like celebrating—and you should! Go ahead and celebrate!

But don’t think you’ll be publishing that memoir soon. First you have a lot of editing and revising to do, and part of that process is having critique partners give you feedback. They can help you notice and correct many boo-boos. (Click on Critiques Make Your Writing Better.)

But before you involve critique partners, do everything you can to make your manuscript as perfect as possible.  Part of that includes fixing all types of wordiness:

Henry was overweight at that point in time.

I took a boat to get me to the open-air market.

I drove to the hardware to buy some nails.

She  managed to call called the salon and made an appointment.

She headed into the market to try and buy some chicken to eat for supper.

He packed up the car.

His beat included some of the nearby neighborhoods.

She worried about the dogs that came and barked at her toddler.

Grandma tried to calm her down so the rest of us could settle down for the night.

He wanted to spend some time learning learn about the Clallam Indian culture.

It involved negotiation on several different levels.

Professor Smith will make a decision decide Friday about Ken’s oral exam.

Often (but not always) you can cut “that” from a sentence. Here’s an example: “I know that you are busy but I think that this is information that you need to know.” Here’s another example: “He was afraid that I’d spoil his birthday surprise.”

William Zinsser offers this advice: “Prune out all the small words that qualify how you feel and how you think and what you saw: ‘a bit,’ ‘a little,’ ‘sort of,’ ‘kind of,’ ‘rather,’ ‘quite,’ ‘very,’ ‘too,’ ‘pretty much,’ ‘in a sense,’ and dozens more. They dilute both your style and your persuasiveness.

“Don’t say you were a bit confused,” Zinsser continues, “and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be confused. Be tired. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don’t hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident.” (On Writing Well)

This type of Editing can be tedious, 
but think of it as polishing and perfecting a gem. 
Invest time in making your memoir sparkle.


  1. Thanks for these great examples Linda!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sharon, and also for reposting this on FB. :) I have to remind myself of these points (and so many similar editing details) every few months so I decided to share them with others. I hope they will be helpful.