Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It All Depends on Who's Talking...and Writing

We don't talk the same way we write. Or, at least, we don't talk the way they tried to teach us to write in school. By the same token, when we write we need to think about how we speak. Or at least how our characters speak.

Real people use incomplete sentences. Right? And so do real writers. We use run-on sentences, too, like this one, as an example. So keep these things in mind when editing your work.

One part of editing I've delved into with my rough draft is which words or phrases to eliminate. And what I've found by searching on the 'net is that no two sources are the same. Here are the top three words from three sites that are supposed to be axed, along with a short descriptions of their reasons why:

  • Really and very--These are useless modifiers. You should be able to find stronger verbs or adjectives for whatever you’re trying to enhance.
  • That--If a sentence still makes sense after removing “that,” delete it. For example, “This is the most amazing blog post that I’ve ever read.” can be, “This is the most amazing blog post I’ve ever read.”
  • Just--I have a hard time removing “just,” especially in dialogue. But for the most part, you don’t need it, and too many can make your dialogue or prose repetitive.

  • Just--The word "just" is a filler word that weakens your writing. Removing it rarely affects meaning, but rather, the deletion tightens a sentence.
  • Really--Using the word "really" is an example of writing the way you talk. It's a verbal emphasis that doesn't translate perfectly into text. In conversation, people use the word frequently, but in written content it's unnecessary.
  • Very--Everything that applies to "really" applies to "very."

  • Really--"Avoiding this word is a really great idea." Reason: A really great idea is the same as a great idea.
  • You--"Sometimes, you feel like writing is too hard." Reason: I never feel this way, so this statement is not true. The writer probably means "I" or "some writers," e.g., "Sometimes, I feel like writing is too hard."
  • Feel--"I feel the government should stop people from writing poorly." Reason: Which emotion is being "felt"? What is the writer touching and, therefore, feeling? Usually, the writer means "believe" or "think." "Feel" is also used by authors to describe a character's emotions, as in "He felt despondent." Instead, the writer should show the emotions through the character's words and actions.
All helpful tips, but that's all they are--tips. No absolutes in writing. Really. If your character's speech pattern is to sprinkle in 'really', then by all means use it. Just put it in there. Really. You'll be very glad you did. Maybe very very glad. And don't go through slicing out every instance of a targeted word just because someone says that you should. Unless it's absolutely essential. Or essential. Or kinda sorta important. Read it out loud, see how it sounds.

Keep writing, friends.

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