Cutting words in your posts: Part 2

Hi Writers,
I’ve noticed, in my web wanderings, wordiness is a rampant problem in the blogosphere. So to continue the theme of my previous post on cutting down wordiness, I’ve taken a recent post by one of my favorite writers, fellow WD blogger Kevin Alexander (with his permission), and cut out the excessive adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and redundancies to get the word count down. It’s the kind of editing you can do if you want to make your writing cleaner and tighter. And it only takes an extra couple of minutes.

Here’s Kevin’s post:
I hope you–like me– found time over the holiday to reflect on the year that was and consume nearly twice your daily recommended caloriesc intake in Lindt chocolate truffles and kind-of-gross, kind-of-really-good alcoholic Egg Nog. But now that I’ve New Years Resolutioned Up and thrown away anything and everything even vaguely brown in my apartment in favor of leafy greens and Guava Goddess Kombucha tea, and I’m finally ready to be back in my normal writing routine, I realized something: I’m kind of rusty.

Due to the holiday and some unforeseen family stuff, I didn’t get a chance to write for two weeks. And so today, when I sat back down in the familiar confines of Espresso Royale, after attempting to nod tentatively at the regulars (you know: the hippies, the college age dude in a bowler cap who is always reading one of the free alternative weeklies and tracing something on a pad, and the loud, unpredictable counter-culture girl with multiple piercings, an eerily normal looking boyfriend, and either a drug problem or an unusually small bladder), I tried to pick up where I left off on my novel re-writes and discovered, to my horror, that I couldn’t, well, do anything. Ideas were vague, plot connections muddled. I couldn’t remember the name of one of my central characters. I spent a terrifyingly long 45 minutes re-reading back chapters just to get a sense of what I was writing about only to find that when I finally remembered, I didn’t have anything creative in the tank. So I went and ordered a Turkey Avocado Club on a sesame bagel.

And while I was sitting down to slay said lunch treat (I know, I know, bagels are terribly caloric), I started to think about why I was rusty. Unlike writer’s block, (which– I should point out– is usually just my excuse to watch “The View”), it wasn’t that I couldn’t get anything on the page, it was morejust like speaking a language. If you stop working, you lose your fluency, your momentum, and your ability to remember the names of secondary characters that play vital roles nearly all the wayOf course, sometimes breaks are good, and necessary even, to clear your head or give a draft another look with a fresh set of eyes. But not while you’re in the thick of things, and not when you have to turn in a certain draft of said piece of work to a certain thesis adviser in a certain amount of days, and you only have another 44 minutes of battery on your laptop, and the hippies are hogging the tables by the power outlet.

So, in conclusion, my break, while important were I to ever need this excess weight during hibernation, was not what experts might call “smart” or even “logical under the circumstances”. Let me know if you suffered the same fate of holiday-induced indolence or feel free to heap on the guilt by telling me about the thousands and thousands of words you produced while your relatives were talking. Either way, drop it in the comments.

See how easy it is to cut out excess without losing voice or meaning in a piece of writing?
Thanks to Kevin for giving me permission to publicly edit his post. (BTW isn’t he funny?)

I hope this helps, if not by all means ignore my advice. It’s just advice, after all. Do what works for you.

Keep Writing,
Maria

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12 thoughts on “Cutting words in your posts: Part 2

  1. Lisa Guidarini

    Hi, Maria,

    I’ve been working hard on eliminating unnecessary adverbs from my own writing. My editor ever so gently suggested I do that, and also that I overcome my love for the comma, another failing I have.

    Though I think sometimes editors shave a bit too much off, I think your point is well made. Shave unnecessary adverbs and re-write so the humor doesn’t depend so much on them. Very good advice.

    Lisa

  2. :Donna

    I’m also in the "Kevin’s voice is missing" camp here. There were only a few edits I would agree with like omitting "in conclusion", which doesn’t take away from Kevin’s style at all.

    I agree that a lot has to do with what voice the blog itself has and why readers come back again and again. Some are purely for concise, spot-on information. Some draw you because of the humor/style/voice. Kevin, for sure, has a very Dave Barryish kind of humor that I thoroughly enjoy. His "The Life of Dad" blog is fantastic! However long his posts are, I enjoy them, from beginning to end, so word count isn’t an issue when I’m enjoying myself.

    Of course, in magazine print, word count is critical and I would think that, chances are, "voice" is probably compromised a lot of times when having to edit dramatically. I’m thinking that keeping a blog post short is important if your readership has limited time to spend and you post often. As with everything else, it’s all relative, right?
    : Donna

  3. soly paraiso

    Having been a fan of William Zinsser, I think I have to agree with you, Maria. Too much adverbs,adjectives and prepositions are just clutter. I love William Zinsser’s advice "On Writng Well": Clarity, simplicity, brevity, humanity. Of course Kevin’s sense of humor is enjoyable, but it all depends on what he wants to convey to his readers. In this day and age, when everyone seems to have little time to read anything, verbosity is not advisable.

  4. Cindy

    Oooh, I’m with the camp that says too much has been cut from Kevin’s post. Part of what endears us to Kevin is his conversational style and generous use of adverbs and adjectives. If his blog were strictly informational, then cut away.

    Your point is well taken, though. The meat of the article was left intact, it just emerged a little on the well-done side of cooked and lost its flavor.

    :)

  5. Maria Schneider

    I hope you all don’t think I’m just trying to pick on Kevin. The truth is, in a print magazine, this would be considered a light edit. Comes with the territory when you have to make a 500 word piece fit into a 300 word box.

  6. Gloria McQueen Stockstill

    Some of the things you cut out make Kevin’s voice become diminished. I don’t see his personality coming through. Some things could have been eliminated but you cut his heart out in some of the corrections.

  7. Pam Hogeweide

    ok, first of all, can you be my blog editor? :-)

    the audience of the blog helps determine the style of the writing. the blogs i tend to travel in vary from being conversational in tone to being like a column. my blog is the same way. sometimes i write wayyyyyyy too chatty. but this is on purpose. other times my writing is quite tight and to the point cuz i have a lot of ground to cover. it depends.

    Less is better is always the writer’s maxim, but not necessarily the blogger’s.

    But I do admit I am addicted to adverbs. It’s a hard habit to break, seriously, it’s hard. But I’m really trying to loosen their grip on my writing, truly I am.

    :-)

    (this has been a great series about blogging, maria. I’ve had three conversations with writers over the age of 40 about blogging. And I referred all three of them to this blog.)

  8. Scott B.

    Depends on who is reading. I’m finding the more I read, the more I notice the difference between the "chatty," and the "to the point" type of writing. Me, personally, chatty doesn’t work. Sometimes I run into short stories I simply cannot read due to the overly-chattied descriptives. For others, this is what makes them tick, yet I feel descriptive usage should be as cleverly applied as possible. "Slay said lunch" was good, and held well solo.

    I found the edit effective, but now I’d better go dice my own, haha!

  9. Robbie Taylor

    I disagree, but mainly for stylistic reasons. I think the original post was chatty and humorous, and the adverbs and extra verbiage add to that. The cutting you’ve done does diminish the voice to me. I would prefer a two-part post rather than a loss of the breeziness inherent in the first.

    That’s my opinion, of course – but I’m a fan of adverbs and wordiness ;)

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