Cut the Useless Words

Earlier, I blogged about going over what you’ve just written.  Editing and revising are part of writing well like practicing free-throws are to scoring more points in a basketball game.  They are vital.  A major aspect of editing and revising is cutting words you don’t need.  Drop any word that doesn’t clearly and powerfully convey your core thought.  Extraneous words muddle the message.  They rob the text of its power to communicate.  For one thing, busy readers have little time and less patience.  The more they have to wade through words that don’t matter, the less likely they will come away informed, enlightened, persuaded, motivated, etc.  What fuels exceptional writing are crispness and clarity. They go hand in hand.

One of the most useless words is “currently.”  It does nothing for crispness or clarity.  It’s merely a hoop that a disinterested and time-starved reader must jump through before getting to your core content.

For example, choose which example reads better:

  1. Joe Jones currently sits in prison for auto theft.  He’s currently confined to a cell measuring eight feet by eight feet.  Clearly, he wants out as soon as possible.
  2. Joe Jones sits in prison for car theft.  His cell measures eight by eight.  He wants out soon.

Example #2 wins hands down.  Its brevity is its power.  Each word conveys the core thought without any help from any extraneous “ly” words.  The word “currently” and the word “clearly” serve no useful purpose.  They only tire and perhaps confuse the reader.  To have maximum impact on your readers get to the point fast.  Boil your text down to its essentials.  do that by eliminating the non-essential words.  Don’t burden the self-evident with the extraneous.

In example #1 above, the word “currently” modifies the verb “sits.”  But “sits” needs no modification.  That word, in the present tense, is self-evident.  It can mean nothing else but Joe Jones is sitting in prison — right now, in the present.  There’s no need for adding a word to help convey what Joe is doing or when.  He sits.  What is, is, and not currently is.


…take what you like and leave the rest.

About 1956waterkey

Senior public relations/communication professional. Areas of focus are strategic communication planning and written communication products (messaging, talking points, speeches, annual reports, white papers, issue advocacy, etc.). Avid reader. Deep into classical and jazz music. Trombone player.
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