"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Polish, Please

In following up on a previous blog about passive voice, I'd like to mention a few other passive voice words and useless words to watch for besides "was" and "were". Keep an eye out for excessive use of the following words: is, are, felt, look, appear, and seem. Change these to active voice when possible.

Many words are expendable. These include qualifiers such as very, rather, quite, really, finally, even, and just. Do a search in your document for these. Eliminate them when possible.

Another word that is often expendable is "that," but check out the rules on this one because its usage can be confusing.

"And" and "but" are not necessary when used at the beginning of sentences, unless you need them for emphasis. Again, use this structure in moderation.

"Well," is another one that you will want to watch for at the beginning of dialogue. "Well, I guess I'll go." Unless you want to show that a person uses this word as part of their speech pattern, or you need it there for a specific emphasis, it can be removed.

Many adverbs (the "ly" words) can be removed, especially those used in dialog, such as "You poor child," he said pityingly. These will clutter your writing if used in excess.

As for adjectives, Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "If you can ever can an adjective, kill it."

As with all fiction writing, you need to know the rules to break them.

And, finally, do as I say, not as I do!

4 comments:

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Yup. I break the rules all the time. Luckily I have great betas that help me polish and shine. :)

Strange Fiction said...

Great list Linda and great timing. I've got two awaiting revision now.. It's amazing how many of those words sneak into a first draft. I'll be back to check your list very soon. Love your "do as I say not as I do". lol

B.J. Anderson said...

OOoooOOOo! Great advice! I'll have to cut this one out and put it in my file of editing tips. :D

Linda Sandifer said...

Thanks everyone. A lot of writers are revising right now (did we all finish our books simultaneously?). There are so many things to look for (hey, I think that's passive!), and no matter how hard we try, and no matter how many times we read our "final" drafts, we are bound to miss something. Alas, no book ever comes out perfect, even those by big-name writers.