Techniques to Cure Wordiness

grammar manAs I said when I started this series of posts, a writer’s greatest skill should be allowing words to do their work. If we do that, our writing should be very concise. This post is a second in the series–a how-to. Kick out the clutter. See if you don’t sense the beauty of words anew.

Technique #:2 Replace redundant pairs with single words.

I think this bad habit–including unnecessary word pairs–came into practice thanks to lawyers who desire their written prose in letter and briefs to look deserving of the huge bill that will surely follow. A lawyer turns a few word couplets like aid and abet or cease and desist, and he can add another zero, left of the decimal, on the invoice. A hundred dollars just became a thousand. Do you see?


Any and all … each and every … one and only … few and far between … first and foremost … peace and quiet … and for the truly loquacious, various and sundry.

Isn’t any included in all? Each covered by every? One represented in the word only? Who even uses the word sundry anymore? Cut! Cut! Cut!

It’s biblical, this advice I’m giving you! Jesus said, “When you … write … don’t do it like lawyers who think that they’ll be heard because of their many words.” Of course that’s a paraphrase. But the point is spot-on: get rid of the fluff and let words, beautiful, meaningful words, communicate as they’re intended! Your reader will get it. They’ll appreciate that you spared them the sticky fluff.

Look back through a section of your manuscript, or the copy you’re working on today. If it reads like a lawyer, OBJECT!