Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cut The Flab

I know those I critique hate to see all those crossed out passages I leave in my wake. Every writer must ask this of every word they get on the page: Is it necessary? Here are word-choice examples that scream to be deleted:
  • Obviously
  • Clearly
  • In a bit
  • After a while
  • Nothing happened
  • Then
  • . . .
  • Anything telling
Those are the edits that can be made with a sledge hammer.

To maximize a piece's impact, it takes an impartial eye to find the next level of flab. I believe I write as precisely as any, but am shocked to see what others find in my work to cut. "How'd I write that!"

It takes an impartial eye and a scalpel to trim the underlying flab.

Write Every Day!



  1. I keep a list of flabby words and do a search for them periodically.

    My list includes: just, was, realized, thought, that.

    Will have to add the ones you mentioned, too!

    You would be my kind of critiquer.

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  3. I would add only one thing to your wise advice: sometimes, the extra words are used for transitions or flow. Is that a good thing? I don't know. I'm all about flow. I don't like choppy writing, and I don't mind wordy writing, either, if it works for the piece. But, yes, I'd say that trimming the flab is generally a good idea, especially when it's replaced by muscle.

  4. Hi Mac,
    How are the girls doing today? ;)
    Well, I hate flab as well. I try to emulate Hemingway in his economy of words. Nowadays, I'm mindful of my verb usage. I try not to abuse "be" in any form.
    However, I'm guilty of indulging in the occasional ellipsis and "then" ;) It's not so bad if I use them correctly.

  5. I just went through my WiP. There were way too many "obviously"s and no "after a while"s so I considered it a draw. (Now there are fewer "obviously"s.)

    Great post!