Self-Editing Tip: Little Words that Don’t Need to be There
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that using long, complicated words is not the path to clear communication. But even if you’ve learned that lesson and practice it daily, you can still take it a step further.
Within many sentences in every type of writing are little words that just don’t need to be there. They don’t necessarily ruin what you’re trying to say, but your writing will be simpler and more to the point without them.
Those Dirty Little Words
The words we’re talking about here are some of the most common words in the English language. They include the, that, a, an, and of.
I know, these words don’t seem very threatening, but that’s precisely why they’re able to sneak in without anyone really noticing. Obviously, these words aren’t always taboo, but if you read through someone else’s work or even your own, it’s easy to see the spots in which they don’t belong.
Here’s an Example
It may be best to show this with an example:
“After one of your read-throughs of your work, be sure to go back and look for the little words that don’t need to be in there.”
This sentence gets the message across, but now read it without the extra words (some of which are different from those listed in the previous section).
“After a read-through of your work, go back and look for little words that don’t need to be there.”
When to Get Rid of Them
The change is subtle, but removing those words does make a difference. You’ll know if they should be removed by reading the sentence over without them in it. If the meaning of your sentence hasn’t changed, the little words don’t belong and you can leave them out.
Are You Serious?
Seems a little (or a lot) pretentious, doesn’t it? No one said the path to a well-written report, article, paper or website would be free from this sort of thing. Once you have the hang of the more basic writing tricks and techniques, these little touch-ups are the next logical step.
Eliminating unnecessary words that don’t add meaning to your writing makes it easier to read and more professional looking. Since the ultimate goal of any piece of writing is to communicate a thought, idea, story or other type of message, presenting it as clearly and concisely as possible is a huge factor.
Go through your stuff and ditch these little words to see how much better it reads. And if you don’t want to, we’d be happy to do it for you!