Some Extraneous Words That Clutter

I often find myself trimming down words when I do content edits for my clients. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts about that and of and how you often don’t need those words. I also gave you my weasel word list and suggested you come up with your own. One author I know told me she went through one of her earlier manuscripts (she has over a hundred published novels now) and deleted as many unnecessary speaker tags as she could find. She trimmed her word count down 6,000 words!

So here are some words you can take out:

  • He thought to himself  [You can only think to yourself, so leave out those words. and if you use italics for thoughts in your novel, you often don’t need to say “he thought” since it’s clearly implied.]
  • He stood up then sat down
  • He nodded his head
  • Amidst, amongst
  • Firstly, secondly, lastly
  • Choose from among three choices [redundant]
  • I don’t like him, but nevertheless I’ll go anyway [redundant so take out either but or nevertheless.]

7 Responses to “Some Extraneous Words That Clutter”

  1. ellamedler November 30, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    You took the words right out of my mouth, Susanne. Especially the comment about nodding one’s head – that’s more annoying than a toothache! What else could one be nodding?

  2. Michael A. Lewis November 30, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    While it is always good to trim excess verbiage, one must take care to retain meaning in the process.

    “Stood” does not mean the same as “stood up.” “Sat” does not mean the same as “sat down.”

    Let’s not sacrifice clarity for concision.

    • cslakin November 30, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      Good point. But too many writers say things like “She shrugged her shoulders and sat down in the chair while nodding her head.” Those extra words can come out. When the meaning can be misunderstood, then yes, you need the additional clarity.

  3. Becky Doughty November 30, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Great tips, Susanne. Always on the look-out for words like these. ‘That’ is one of my biggies – argh!

  4. Kathy Davie November 30, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    It’s a bit like saying “I think” or “in my opinion”. Obviously, since you’re talkin’, it must be your opinion or thought. I catch myself quite often with those.

  5. Alejandro De La Garza December 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    There should be a comma after ‘He stood,’ since the next action – ‘sat’ – is a separate one.

    • cslakin December 1, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

      Yes, I’d put a comma in. I wasn’t looking at punctuation in this discussion, but you are right. Although I bet some would argue it’s too short a sentence to bother, like She read and I wrote. CMOS says don’t bother separating clauses that short.

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