Writing tips from EC editors.
Unnecessary or Misused Words
Some suggestions on words to search for and eliminate to tighten up your writing.
- Began: Sometimes it is correct, when describing the start of a long or multipart action. But often it is unnecessary: “She began to open the door. He began to walk across the room.” It could be just: “She opened the door. He walked across the room.” Characters in your story should do things, not begin to do them.
- Felt: “When he kissed her, she felt her breasts tingle.” Try to be more directly active: “When he kissed her, her breasts tingled.”
- In order to: It is usually just as clear to say merely “to”.
- Of: It’s often unnecessary. “Inside her” reads as easily as “Inside of her”, “off him” is as descriptive as “off of him”.
- Only or Just: It should come before the word it modifies.
Correct: The book costs just $7.99.
Wrong: She only had enough money to buy one gallon of gas.
Correct: She had only enough money to buy one gallon of gas.
- Was: There are lots of legitimate uses for it, but often a stronger verb can be used. “Barry was shaking his head.” Try “Barry shook his head.” “Her heart was beating painfully” could be “Her heart beat painfully.”
A good rule of thumb is this:
Wrong: If the sentence flows without using the word then, then don’t use it.
Correct: If the sentence flows without using the word then, don’t use it.