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Five quick tips to cut words count: Editor's Notes #297
October 02, 2019

When words reach the tip of your tongue, hold back half of them.
—Chinese proverb

In this issue:

1. Five quick tips for cutting your word count
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. Five quick tips for cutting your word count
Most writing is better when it’s made shorter. [8] Cutting makes most writing better. [5] Although cutting chapters, paragraphs, or sentences make a big impact, removing individual words or phrases can also add up. Add these tips to your revisions to cut your word count and achieve more elegant and powerful writing.
  • Change verb-adverb pairs into single verbs that more accurately make your point. Walked heavily becomes plodded. Sang sweetly becomes crooned. Drank noisily becomes slurped.
  • Remove auxiliary verbs. (See link below.) They often give a tentative feel, so use them only if they are vital. Try this good tactic: write commands instead of suggestions.
  • Eliminate the word very.
  • Eliminate redundancies. Knelt down the by the cheddar cheese becomes knelt by the cheddar.
  • Cut back on attributions in dialogue. In each instance, ask whether you need to say who is speaking and how.
    Jerry said loudly, "Get out!"

    Bill said quietly, "Shh. You’ll wake the kids."

    "I don’t care if they wake up. You get out or I’ll punch you in the nose." said Jerry.

    Ok, I’m going," said Bill.

    Now, cutting attributions:
    Jerry yelled, "Get out!"

    Bill hissed, "Shh. You’ll wake the kids."

    "I don’t care if they wake up. You get out or I’ll punch you in the nose."

    Ok, I’m going."

Send me your own tips on cutting your word count. With your permission, I’ll pass yours on to other readers.


2.Tickled my funny bone
Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off?   
He's all right now.


3. Interesting Web site
For more on auxiliary verbs, see this page.

4. Writing prompt
I opened "Five quick tips for cutting your word count" with two sentences, each followed by its word count in square brackets. Do you see how they mean the same thing with fewer words? I’ve left in other sentences with too many words. Cut as many words as you can from my tips. Then go on to work on some of your own wordy work. I welcome your revisions of my writing in a return email.

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