Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Polishing Your Writing Skills

As writers, words are our business. We rely on them to bring in clients, wow editors, convey our messages, and pay our bills. But even the best writer gets a bit sluggish once in awhile, and many of us find familiar (but overused) words creeping into our work.

It's a challenge, and I think most writers would agree that part of the appeal of the actual work of writing is to keep our skills sharp and turn in work of the best possible quality. So that means cutting out those old, tired words that are easy to pop in but do nothing for the end result.

In other words? Passive voice = bad! Non-descriptive adjectives/adverbs? Get them outta here!

I'm guilty of this. I tend to use "very", "quickly", and "really" much more than I should. I let it slide a bit when I'm writing an informal email or blog post (though I try to watch my usage there, too), but I'm super-sensitive to it when I'm working on a paid assignment. The irony? I tell my students that these words (along with the word "unique") are "nondescriptive" or "empty" adjectives--they're way too general and still don't do an adequate job of describing what it is you're talking about. I was re-reading an article I'd had published recently and noticed a few "quickly"'s had found in the text, and had to kick myself for not catching them and editing them out. I'm challenging myself to eliminate the usage of these words as much as possible.

What about you? What words or phrases do you tend to overuse?

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