Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Some Words that Should Die

As an author, it’s our job to make sure that our readers are fully engaged in our work.  To make this happen, various elements come into play.  The obvious ones are relatable and compelling characters and a well-paced plot line that holds interest, but these cannot be accomplished if we don’t have command of the language and keep our manuscript tight.

In my recent editing path, I came across some words that I think should die and made a note of them.  They don’t carry their weight and nine times out of ten can be eliminated without a tear.  I’ve provided examples for some.  Of course, there is no rule that says the words below shouldn’t be used in a manuscript, but we would want to use them sparingly if at all. 

Just

Simply

Only – has its place but use for special emphasis.
           
Example:  This is only the beginning.
Reason:  In this case it’s implied that a lot is going to take place.  It has an element of intrigue.

            Poor example:  The presentation was to commence at nine-thirty, leaving them only another thirty minutes. 
            Reason:  The “another” covers “only”…not necessary.
            Stronger:  The presentation was to commence at nine-thirty, leaving them another thirty minutes. 

Started/starting
            Example:  She started laughing. 
            Reason: Is she laughing or not?

Stronger:  She laughed.

Seemed
            Example:  The intensity of emotion in the courtroom seemed tangible.
            Reason: Well, is it or isn’t it?

            Stronger:  The intensity of emotion in the courtroom was tangible.

Felt

Smirk / Grin
            These words stand out in a manuscript.  Smiled is more accepted and smack readers as much as the variations.  (Similar to the advice you know about “he said” being stronger than “he stated”.)

As
            Example:  She let out a deep breath as though relieved to get this off her conscience.

            Stronger:  She let out a deep breath relieved to get this off her conscience.

Still
            Example:  Business people still dressed in their suits with loosened or removed ties in need of a break were drawn in.  
            Reason:  You can take the word “still” out and the sentence remains intact.

            Stronger:  Business people, needing a break, still dressed in their suits with loosened or removed ties, were drawn in.  

Look / looked