Tips for Efficient Eliminating Words You Don’t Need
With the advent of text lingo and the rise of the ‘emoji’, Western Society continues to further its love affair with the ability to ‘do more with less.’ A point that resonates in declining newspaper subscriptions and a preferred skills of knowing how to say something in approximately 140 character, or less.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that people no longer have the time, or the attention span, needed to read statements or paragraphs that are longer than absolutely necessary. As a writer, you need for your audience to not only listen to you, but to really understand the message you are delivering to them, and most importantly, to pay attention.
In order to that, you might need to consider eliminating a few of the more overused words from your writing and speaking.
Why You Many Need Eliminating Words In The First Place?
If you are familiar with the popular, coming of age, 90’s teen comedy Clueless, you’ve likely heard the overused catchphrase, “whatever”.
This is an excellent example of how unnecessary words find their way into English phrases or sentences.
Another example of this is the word, “like”.
“Like, I was just walking home from school…”
“It was like so cold outside…”
“We were like doing our homework, when like, my dog just ate my English report.”
Unless you want to run the risk of sounding like a pre-teen girl, it is a good idea to strike ‘like’ from your vocabulary, unless you are using it in it’s properly intended context.
Other words that you should consider eliminating from your writing or speaking include:
THAT: The word that, despite being found in nearly every sentence ever written, is almost never used properly. For example, someone might say “I have a cousin that drives a Honda Civic.” When what they really mean is that they have a cousin WHO drives a Honda Civic.
WENT: Went, while often being used correctly, is BORING. You went to the mall this afternoon. Great! I rode the bus to the mall this afternoon. I walked to the mall this afternoon. There are many ways that you could have possibly ‘went’ somewhere. Pick one, take the opportunity to add to your story.
HONESTLY: Writers and speaking use the word honestly in an attempt to add emphasis to their statements. The issue here is that by telling your listen that this specific statement is honest, you are telling them that the rest of your statement is not.
VERY: As Robin Williams, in Dead Poet’s Society, said “…so avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose…”
AMAZING: There are so many other great words that mean the same thing as amazing, yet the only one anyone ever consistently uses is – AMAZING. What about incredible, remarkable, wonderful, marvelous, starting, astonishing, surprising, fantastic, mind-blowing, miraculous, staggering, outstanding..
IRREGARDLESS: Irregardless is not a word, and people need to stop using it for the simple fact that it does not exist. When you say ‘irregardless’ what you actually mean is regardless.
What Does ‘Eliminate’ Mean?
The process of elimination, with regards to writing and speaking, means removing unnecessary words from your vocabulary. These words might be unnecessary because they are overused, grammatically in correct, unnecessary, or not even words at all.
Often time, using unnecessary words results in ‘wordiness’ or statements that are so drawn out that readers have a hard time following along or understanding the intended message or meaning.
Some Simple But Logical Eliminating Rules
The process of whittling down your writing so that the finished product is as concise as possible often involves changing sentence structure to remove unnecessary information, editing to remove redundant phrases or words, or eliminating unnecessary words to make clearer and more understandable sentences.
Here are five of the most common guidelines to follow when trying to improve your writing by eliminating unneeded words.
- If a single word will do, never use two words just for the sake of using them: This is a common mistake that even the most experienced writers struggle with. Mistakenly, writers believe that adding additional words will make them sound more ‘official’ or ‘formal’, when in reality, all it does is take up white space.
- Eliminate useless phrases and words: There is no point in saying the same thing twice. Unfortunately, many common phrasesin English do just that. For example, when you say that something is a ‘true fact’ you are repeating something. In order for it to be a ‘fact’ it must also be ‘true’. Therefore, if it is ‘true’ it is also ‘fact.’ The same can be said for ‘an unexpected surprise’ or a ‘free gift’. These are examples of the so-called ‘redundant pairs’.
- Stick to complex sentences: It is common for writers to add additional words in shorter sentences by repeating information. Short sentences typically contain information that doesn’t necessarily need to stand alone, and would be better suited with a clause that can create new sentences and use less words.
- If you mean something, say it like you mean it: Often times, a lot of unneeded words are used to add fluff or filler, or to talk around a topic. When you are writing a paper, it is better to support your ideas with concrete facts and statements than to attempt to dance around it with words like ‘might’ or ‘it appears’. If something is unclear, or you are uncertain – don’t say it. Stick to the facts.
- Be vigilant in your proofreading: After you’ve finished writing, carefully read and scrutinize your paper, word for word. Take every measure possible to make sure that every word adds value to your paper. Will your audience be engaged? Will they follow what you are saying? Will they be interested? Will they understand it? Remove any word that you deem to be unnecessary or redundant, reword aphrase that detracts or takes away from your intended vision. Only use the words and phrases that add value.
Some Useful Examples
Try to avoid the overuse of common phrases that should -whenever possible – be replaced with a single word.
Some of these phrases include:
- It is possible that.. (“Might” or “maybe” will do just fine)
- There is a chance that… (again, “might” or “maybe” will work)
- It is necessary…(“must” or “should” will suffice.)