Home » Editing tips » Editing tip 4: Unnecessary Words

Editing tip 4: Unnecessary Words

Every word counts when writing a novel. Your prose ought to be concise and not contain unnecessary words and clichéd or overused phrases, particularly in the narration. In dialogue, you can get away with it, but not if it is repetitive. For instance, people do say, “At the end of the day” and “When all is said and done”. Having a character say it once will be excused by the reader, but several times? It will become irritating and is likely to be interpreted as a sign of lazy writing. As you self-edit your work, keep an eye out for this kind of thing. Read the sentence without the unnecessary words or phrase and, if it makes sense without, delete it, or replace it with something more meaningful.

Below is a list of common overused words and phrases, with given alternatives.

As to whether: whether is sufficient.

At this moment in time: simply use now.

At the end of the day: replace with the adverb finally or ultimately.

For the foreseeable future: unspecific. Tell the reader how much the foreseeable future is.

For/to all intents and purposes: replace with the adverb effectively or virtually.

In any way, shape or form: this phrase can be dropped without changing the meaning of the preceding text, but if it must be included, simply edit to in any way.

In spite of the fact that: simply use though or although.

In this day and age: simply use today.

One of the most: just use the most.

Par for the course: my favourite. People often mispronounce it as ‘path for the course’. It’s a golfing term that actually means normal or as expected.

The reason why is that: simply use because.

There is no doubt that: replace with no doubt or doubtless.

The truth is/the fact is: simply state the truth, or the fact.

The words who is and which was are often overused and can be removed:

Her son, who is currently living in Rome becomes Her son, currently living in Rome

Wales, which was the last place he lived becomes Wales, the last place he lived

This is just a small selection, but some Internet research or the purchase of a book of clichés will provide many more.

When editing for unnecessary words and phrases, first ask yourself what  meaning you are trying to convey; then decide if you need the phrase at all; then delete the text or rewrite it. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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