Techniques to Cure Wordiness

cheeseitsI’ll tell you a secret. I’ve developed a habit on Sundays. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve come into it honestly. My own seminary training and twenty-plus years of preaching experience have rendered me powerless to avoid it–I recognize when the pastor’s message is over and I shut my Bible and put away the pen I used to take notes. It’s over! He’s done!

The trouble is, the pastor seldom realizes he’s done. He rambles on. Sometimes at burdensome length. Many times he doesn’t even close when he stops preaching, but he revisits what he believes to be salient points in the closing prayer and benediction.

Amen, already!

Good writing, like good preaching, rests on this important principle: the start and the finish are more important than the middle.

In this post–fourth in the series–I want to tackle finishing.

In sermons, there is only one ending–can I get an Amen? Writing, however, has the potential for several endings; sentence endings, paragraph endings, chapter endings and of course, ending endings–“And they all lived happily ever after.”

Work at recognizing the importance and purpose of your endings. And then conclude them with your very best and most dutiful words. 

Consider this sentence: “We need to do something about the difficulties we’re having.” To end the sentence “we’re having” adds nothing, and even misdirects emphasis. What would you want to emphasize in this sentence?

You could choose to emphasize the difficulties to make the sentence stronger: “We need to do something about these difficulties.” Or, better still, you could emphasize urgency: “We need to do something about these difficulties right now!”

Here’s the point: In revising the sentence ending, you’ve added energy, even emotion. It carries the reader forward.

Notice I trimmed the “we’re experiencing” in both improvements. Wasted words! And you know we are all about curing wordiness. When a word restates something that’s already implied in sentence and context, it is fluff you should excise. Difficulties, in the context of the example–of course they’re being experienced. The experience is integral.

“Shari and I are always looking for new restaurants to try.” Cut “to try.” Of course we’re going to try them–why else would you be on the lookout for new restaurants?

Troubles that you’re experiencing … interruptions that are occurring … mistakes that keep happening … Spare us! We get it. And end it with a bang: Troubles! Interruptions! Mistakes! Oh My! Leave your reader wondering, Where do you go from there?

Which takes us to … starts. Next time.