I teach a feature writing class at Yakima Valley Community College. I tell my students to keep it simple. I’ve noted, both in my own writing and most students’ work, that as writers, we tend to use too many words. Sometimes it’s needless modifiers that just jubiantly jumble up our writing. You know, the descriptive words that squarely plant our profound prose in the ultimate, over-the-top camp. Sometimes we use too many ifs, likes, buts, little bits, and actuallys. We often repeat… repeat ourselves using different words, a variety of language, to say the exact same thing, twice, in a single sentence. At other times, we hedge, we beat around the bush, we describe something or someone too carefully, because we don’t want to come right out and call them fat or ugly. We don’t want to step on toes or hurt feelings.
It’s been my experience that most writers tend to use 10 to 30 percent more words than they need to get their point across. When I edit my work, the first thing I do, is look for extra words, extra words that don’t add anything to the meaning of the written piece. I worry about the technical stuff later. Next time you write a poem, a letter, a journal entry, a book, a movie script, a memo, a play, a postcard, a facebook entry… oh, you get it, take time to check if you’re using too many words, more than you need to get your intended meaning across to your intended audience at the intended time and the intended place. If you’re as critical as I am, I bet you’ll be able to eliminate a few words in nearly every other sentence while remaining true to both the message and beauty of the writing. Take this piece for instance. I’m really, really reluctant to post it.