Put Your Writing on a Diet

Writing a piece is the first step where you take an idea and expand it into a story. Once you finish the story, you are only half done. You still have to look at the piece and revise it. You need to read the work again, looking for certain cues that tell you where you have useless words.

The word ‘that’ is often not needed. Take the sentence, “Sally knew that Mike couldn’t go on the way he was.” The word ‘that’ is not needed here because the sentence could also be read as, “Sally knew Mike couldn’t go on the way he was.” Yes, that’s only one word, but if you read your work, you will likely find a large number of instances where the word ‘that’ serves no purpose.

There are lists of those kind of words on the internet. If you use the find tool in your favorite to locate the words, one at a time, you can determine where they are needed and where you can cut them from the piece. That will make your work leaner.

You also need to look for passive voice. Check your work, sentence by sentence and see if you have a lot of passive voice in it. Take a sentence like, “the ball was thrown to Mike by John.” It’s not only passive voice, it’s confusing. Moving it to active voice makes it clearer. “John threw the ball to Mike.” It cuts the word count, making your work leaner and clearer.

Anything you can do to make your work leaner will make it better. You want to say what you need to say in as few words as you can. That’s your goal. Cutting the bloat is the best way to do that. All you have to do is eliminate the unnecessary words and move the action to active voice. There is one word of warning I have for you, sometimes you need passive voice. You don’t have to eliminate all of it. You only have to cut back on it.

Adverbs are also words you should use in moderation. Cutting back on the -ly words strengthens your writing. Look for those as well.  You don’t have to cut them all. You only have to use them in moderation. Use all your words with an eye to determining the best one for your purpose. Some words work better than others. On the other hand, the word that works in one instance may not work in another. It’s as simple as that.

The first thing to do after finishing your first draft is to read the work, sentence by sentence, then word by word. That will let you decide on each word and how they all hang together. You might find yourself using less words than you started with, but the writing will be tighter and better for the revision. So put your writing on a diet.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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