Friday, January 10, 2014

Writing: Remove Pleonasms

One of the hardest tasks for the writer is deleting a word they've written. For some reason, after we put a word in place it becomes something akin to sacred. It's difficult for writers to "kill our darlings," but sometimes it's both necessary and beneficial.

And that brings us to pleonasm. What is this, you may ask? It's the use of more words than are necessary. Another definition of pleonasm is a word or phrase that may be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. In other words, it's redundant.

Back in the good old days of writers submitting their work to magazines and getting paid by the word, it was usual for a submission to be padded. But that's no longer true. Editors can and will certainly exercise their red pencils, but they appreciate it if the authors do it before submitting their work.

And what words must the author look for and possibly cut?  The most common are “that,” “very,” “both,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

The hardest task for an author is cutting extraneous words, especially after their battle to think of those words in the first place. It's a never-ending battle.

The next time you're reading, whether it's a book, a magazine, or a newspaper, look for words and phrases that can be (and perhaps should have been) removed. I hope you'll share some of those in the comments section.

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