10 Ways to Tighten Your Writing

I’ve talked about the importance of writing tight before, but here are a few tricks that will help you tighten your manuscript without having to think too much about it. When we speak, we add words that really don’t need to be there. So, when we write, we must chop, chop, chop.

Here are ten examples:

-sit down: The only way to sit is down, so all you have to write is sit. Ex. He sat on the bed. She sat at the kitchen table. He sat beside her. (Note: You can sit up, but that doesn’t mean the same thing. You would need to write “sit up” when using this so the reader knows what you mean.)

-stood up: The only way to stand is up. Ex. He stood. She stood and walked to the window.

-shrugged his shoulders: The only things you can shrug are your shoulders, so you don’t need to tell us. Ex. She shrugged. He shrugged and looked away.

-nodded her head: You can’t nod anything but your head, so it’s not necessary to add this detail. Ex. She nodded. He looked at her and nodded.

-looked up at the sky (or ceiling): We know the sky (or ceiling) is up, so you don’t have to tell us. Ex. She looked at the sky. He glanced at the ceiling.

-walked over to: In this case, you don’t need to add “over” because the sentence still makes sense to say you walked to something. Ex. He walked to the desk. She walked to the car.

-knelt down: The only way to kneel is down. Ex. He knelt before her. She knelt to pick up the pieces of broken glass.

-turn around: If you’re turning, you’re going around. It’s enough to say turn/turned. Ex. He turned and met her gaze. She turned and ran.

-looked down at the floor: This is similar to the sky and ceiling, only the opposite. The floor is beneath us or below, in other words it’s down. I would expect someone to look DOWN if he’s looking at the floor, so you don’t need to tell me where the floor is located. Ex. He looked at the floor and sighed. She glanced at the floor.

-her heart thumped in her chest: Where else would her heart be? Keep it simple. Ex. Her heart thumped.

These are the first ten examples that came to mind. There are plenty more. Want to add to my list? Leave a comment.

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Want to know more about what to expect with a substantive edit? Check this out: http://labelleseditorialservices.com/editorial-services-2/substantive-or-big-picture-editing/.

Lynnette Labelle

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2 Responses to 10 Ways to Tighten Your Writing

  1. Graeme Ing says:

    Really great tips. Would love to see more of these. I see these a lot in books and they irritate me. Actually it was you that taught me these in the first place. Thinking about it, just last night I messed up on that last one! Will fix that tonight.

  2. Lynnette Labelle says:

    Thanks, Graeme. I’ll see if I can come up with some more. 🙂

    Lynnette Labelle

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