Tighten Up!

There you are, plugging along, writing your first draft, and perhaps you’re already thinking about the work involved when you will need to go back and do revisions.   But…, did you know there’s a quick and easy way to make your writing better?  And it’s something you can do to tighten it up without too much brain power, and you can do this immediately?

Consider the infamous “to be” verbs, and those pesky adverbs known as “simply, only, and just.”  Being aware of these commonly overused words and kicking them to the curb can truly transform your writing – dramatically.  I didn’t find out about this until I’d finished my first manuscript and then?  Well, I had a big task in front of me to go through and eliminate all instances – or as many as I could.

Maybe this is stating the obvious for some, but I didn’t major in English, so, all of my writing “education” has come from reading, reading, reading, and reading some more.

Since learning this, I now try and actively avoid all “to be’s”:

  • Is
  • Was
  • Am
  • Are
  • Were
  • Be
  • Become
  • Became

And by “actively” I mean, while I’m writing my drafts.  Now, if doing this as you go along slows down your daily writing goal, or sends you into a hair pulling exercise, you can always wait until you are done for the day and then go back and do a “find” on the words.  After you’ve located them, you can work on a different way to structure the sentence in order to eliminate them.

I found this great piece of advice on how to do this without jeopardizing your master copy from this link here.  It just so happens to be from the University of North Carolina, (Go Heels!)

(http://www.unc.edu/~dcderosa/Draftworkshops/tobeverbs.html )

Once you’ve cleaned up your manuscript by eliminating “to be’s,” next attack those adverbs:

  • Only
  • Just
  • Simply

You could do the same thing, and do a “find,” on your newly added words for the day and then delete them if that works for the sentence, or, figure out how to structure it so it reads cleaner.  Follow the same steps to get a “copy” to work from, then save it as advised in the link from UNC above.

And…, to give credit where credit is due, here is the blog site where I found advice on the adverb no-no which also gives examples of sentences with the adverbs removed:


Now, go back and read out loud what you’ve changed.  See?  Doesn’t that sound much better?

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