I’m about to share with you my number one tip for improving your writing tenmillionfold. Yes, TENMILLIONFOLD. It’s very simple, but most people find it hard to do. Are you ready? Here it is:
Cut out ALL unnecessary words.
Use the fewest words possible to convey your meaning. Brutally cut out all words that do not need to be there. I’m not kidding: be an asshole to your words. Delete those fuckers.
And I’m not just talking about individual words, either. You know, the adjectives and the adverbs everybody’s already told you don’t need to be there. I don’t care if there’s a sentence or even an entire paragraph you’re super proud of. If it doesn’t add to your point, if what you’ve written makes just as much sense without it, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE. Or, as some people like to say, ‘murder your darlings’.
Now, maybe you’re reading over this post and thinking, ‘But Karen! You’ve included loads of words that don’t technically need to be there. Look! You’ve even used a couple of adjectives! And why the hell did you start this sentence with “Now”?’
You have a point. But do you know the difference between you and me? I’ve been writing for years and I’ve found my voice. Those words help my personality come across on the page, and don’t you feel like we’re having a conversation right now?
I didn’t always write like this. I used to include tons of extra words because I thought they made me sound more writerly, or more intelligent, or more poetic, or whatever. But do you know what really happens when you do that? Two things:
1. You sound like a pretentious douchebag.
2. YOU’RE BORING AS SHIT.
I don’t want you to trip yourself over with this. And I don’t want you to freeze whenever you come to the page because you’re terrified of writing some boring, wordy shit. No. Just write as you normally would and then GO BACK. This is what editing is for, folks. And the best part is, if you go back and consider each word you’ve written, you’ll get a better sense of where you’re going wrong. Are there any particular adjectives that crop up over and over again? Or adverbs? I’m guilty of writing ‘actually’ way too much, for instance. I have to go back and edit those sneaky blighters out.
Extra, pointless words make your writing a slog to get through. It’s like, ‘Alright, would you just get to the fucking point already?’ Stop masturbating over your prose and just say what needs to be said. Think about what your reader needs to hear, not what you want to say. How can you get your point across as succinctly as possible? Do that.