Top

Going On A Word Diet: Tips To Tighten Your Writing

In our new 4 part weekly resource series of writing tips, Tiffany Mayer helps you polish your skills and strengthen your confidence and impact as a writer. First up is a diet … no, not that kind. A word diet!

Writing Workshop: Going on a Word Diet | Food Bloggers of Canada

They have a way of creeping into our writing, like another kitchen gadget into our utensil drawer.

I’m talking about unnecessary words or phrases that use up valuable space in our blog posts.

Removing one or two words from a sentence can make a big difference to your writing without altering the voice you’ve worked so hard to develop. But clear, concise writing requires practice and an unsentimental eye when editing our work, to the benefit of our portfolios and readers.

Here are a few ways to trim the fat and become a lean, mean writing machine:

I just wish there was a very easy way to do this

There is. The header of this section is a perfect example of where to start. Adverbs, such as “very” and “just” don’t add anything to a sentence. Nix them and remind yourself that every word should be important.

Writing in the simple tense also puts the squeeze on your word count. Instead of “I had begun to cook the ramen” try “I started cooking the ramen.” Even better, “I cooked the ramen.”

Ignore what your university professors said and use contractions, too. In addition to tightening your writing, contractions add a conversational tone to your post that’s engaging for readers.

“I think” is another easy target. We know what you’re thinking when you write “Tofurky tastes better deep-fried” so take the word credit you saved by trimming “I think” from that sentence and spend it on something that enhances your post.

Watch for sneaky prepositions, too, such as “that” or “of,” for example: “She was happy I gave her flowers when she got off the plane” rather than “She was happy that I gave her flowers when she got off of the plane.”

Use adjectives sparingly

Going On a Word Diet | Food Bloggers of Canada

Word diet image from Shutterstock

You can use simple words to build drama. That’s not to say avoid adjectives always but be choosy when you use them, and particularly with how many you use. Did you use two adjectives similar in meaning to describe the same thing? Choose your favourite and leave the other on the cutting room floor. Read this example of how going easy on the adjectives can make for great writing that still evokes incredible imagery for the reader.

Recommended Reading:  Write about Just-eat.ca!

Going into things head first

While it can use up a lot of words, backing into sentences can also make your writing convoluted, if you know what I mean. Sorry, say that again? Backing into sentences uses a lot of words and convolutes your writing. Try to avoid it.

Avoid the passive voice

You’ll be amazed at how many superfluous words you’ll avoid if you write how you speak. That means using the active voice at the keyboard like in face-to-face conversation. However, many of us tend to write in a passive voice. Instead of “The ramen was eaten by my cousin,” which you would never say in conversation, write “My cousin ate the ramen.”

Stay away from the Department of Redundancy Department

Redundancy lurks everywhere, waiting to confuse readers and delighting in eluding us while editing. Free gift, brand new, complete stranger, heavy in weight, few in number, consensus of opinion, brief summary, dull in appearance, red in colour — in each of these, one word implies the rest of the phrase. So why use two or three words when you can use one?

More Reading

More great tips to help you with your writing skills:

Be sure to check out the rest of Tiffany’s Writing Workshop Series!


Tiffany Mayer is a freelance journalist and author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty (History Press, 2014). She blogs about food and farming at eatingniagara.com.

Hello Summer!
  GET YOUR FREE WATERMELON RECIPE E-BOOK  
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

, ,

3 Responses to Going On A Word Diet: Tips To Tighten Your Writing

  1. Jason Sandeman January 6, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

    Lovely post. I suggest “The Elements of Style” by E. B. White and William Strunk Jr., a great book on guidelines for tightening your writing.

    I’m reading “On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition” which is full of great advice too.

  2. Mayssam January 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

    Great tips! Knowing how to edit oneself is almost as important as knowing how to write.

  3. Marlene Cornelis January 7, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

    “… like another kitchen gadget into our utensil drawer” … love it!

Leave a Reply

Hello Summer!
  GET YOUR FREE WATERMELON RECIPE E-BOOK  
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST