4 Steps to Trimming the Word Fat

Posted May 28, 2013 by Amanda Shofner in Editing / 2 Comments

You’ve written your masterpiece. It’s beautiful and it’s brilliant, but it’s MASSIVE. What do you do next? You tackle the word fat. Word fat is anything you tossed in your sentences to make them sound better, but adds nothing to your meaning. Word fat drags your writing down. Word fat is not attractive. It bloats your writing, leaving it bigger and longer than it needs to be.

Word fat is not healthy.

Here are four steps to trimming the word fat:

1. Identify the meaning you want to convey

If you don’t know what you’re saying, no one else will either.

The meaning of your sentence is king. (Or queen, if you prefer.) Everything is measured against your meaning. What is the message you want to send your readers? Now is the time to dig deep and be conscious about what you’re saying.

2. Decide which words MUST stay in your sentence to maintain meaning

These words are the bare bones of your sentence. Be RUTHLESS. The biggest trap we fall into—yes, I do too—is adding words we think help make our point. We start throwing in adverbs and adverbial phrases and adjectives and soon we’re caught up in the pretty and the awesome, not our meaning.

The trick to this, if you’re not sure how to decide what must stay, is to drop a word from the sentence, read the sentence without the word, and see if the meaning—not the awesome or the pretty—stays intact.

3. Delete anything that doesn’t affect the meaning

You might decide your sentence needs a little extra emphasis here or there—and that’s fine. That emphasis is a well-defined muscle. It makes your writing stronger. Everyone will want to write like you because hot damn, you’re good.

But sentences rarely need more than the bare bones.

Say what you need to and move on. No one appreciates having their time wasted, and word fat wastes everyone’s time. People have short attention spans. Your writing won’t be effective if you lose your readers’ attention.

4. Reread your sentence for repetitive words or phrases

If you’re repeating the same words, your readers are going to focus on those. Variety is good! ‘Different’ and ‘some’ seem to be common offenders. Kick those repeat offenders to the curb!

Pay attention to sentences that repeat meaning. If two of your sentences have the same meaning, why do you need both?

Tags: ,

2 responses to “4 Steps to Trimming the Word Fat

  1. LOVE these tips. My writing is so bloated, it’s not even funny. I would add that there is always word fat. Always. Writers have to go through every sentence with a fine comb to make sure it doesn’t stay there.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.