Ever thought about why we put adjectives where we do? This creative post by Analytical Grammar explains it graphically. Now we know!
A tenet of readability and good writing is to “whack wordiness” wherever possible. One way involves replacing long noun phrases with short verbs. Consider these examples:
As you can see, you can whack wordiness by turning a long-winded “heavy” phrase into an active “lively” verb.
What clues do you look for? Start with flagging nouns ending in “ion” and “ment.”
When editing manuscripts, I make changes such as these dozens of times a day. What a difference this one technique makes! Try it for yourself.
Your challenge: Use this technique and send me examples.
Note: You’ll learn dozens of editor’s techniques by attending a business writing WordShop this May or June. You’ll come away with:
Friday, May 6, 2016, at Tucson College in Tucson, AZ. Full details here.
Thursday, June 16, 2016, at DeVry University in Westminster, CO (hosted by Avante Leadership Group) Sign up here.
Share other ways you like to whack wordiness here.
The spoken word automatically comes with a range of ways to convey your message: voice intonation, facial expression, gestures, and so on. But you simply don’t have the same advantages with the written word. As a result, you risk setting a tone that can be misconstrued.
To avoid confusion, I suggest you drop the following idioms and pompous phrases from your writing. You’ll immediately have more clarity!
These phrases come from my STRENGTHEN Everything You Write WordShop with a few additions I’ve gleaned from others:
What idioms and pompous phrases would you add to this list?
by Barbara McNichol
I appreciate the thought-provoking words of advice from blogging expert Jon Morrow in his blog post about Writing Tips.
Read it in full to get the sense of which of his six writer’s “hats” to wear when. Then send me your comments about this approach. Jon writes:
Did you use Jon’s six-hat approach? What did you experience?
In preparing to dive into his final review before I begin editing his nonfiction book, this conscientious author sent me this request:Any guidance you can offer as to how to attack the beast, make smooth progress in the next two weeks and not get sucked in or bogged down but ultimately be helpful to you?
My best advice to him applies to all authors at this stage of the process.
As you review every section, focus on content while asking these questions.
Before moving on to the next section, flag the quality of the writing in that section.
For the sake of speed and continuity, only label the writing; don’t rework it. Then any part you label “awkward,” decide if you want to
Also, include a note to your editor about your thoughts/actions. You might say: “I reworked this a bit but it could use more smoothing out.”
During this initial content-focused run through, be sure to take off your author’s hat and wear your reader’s hat. Do your best to “see” it from your reader’s viewpoint—a tricky thing to accomplish, but doing so will make a huge difference.
What points of advice would you add? Share them here.
This follows an earlier blog post, Revising Your Own Writing: Part 1, with hints for revising your own writing and strengthening it in the process.
Have you been practicing the tips from Part 1?
Let me know your experience as you apply these ideas to your own masterpieces.
You can usually find me at my computer editing what others create and tapping out my ideas for better writing. But recently, I had the opportunity to convey my ideas in audio form.
In a lively half-hour podcast hosted by author/consultant Jason Hartman, we talked about writing mistakes and their fixes, trends in communication, how to hire an editor, and more.
Please check it out at http://bit.ly/1h6jpIs and share your comments here.
(Note: The first two minutes describe Jason’s podcast series, Speaking of Wealth, so stay tuned in. And yes, I know. The word “grammer” in the description should be spelled “grammar.”J)
When you sit down and write a book or even a marketing message, do you imagine talking to one person or several? Too often, authors think they’re addressing a multitude of readers and let phrases such as “many of you” and “a few of you” creep in.
Remember, reading is a solitary activity. Regard the person who reads what you write as an audience of one.
A subscriber to my monthly ezine Add Power to Your Pen posed this burning question:
“As a word lover, I continue to enjoy your explanations of mistakes I hear every day, often from people who should know better! Would you please explain to your readers the correct use of the word literally? I keep hearing people say things like, ‘When I got the news, I was literally over the moon.’ Really? I thought only Sir Richard Branson had the money to do that!”
After a bit of research, here’s how I responded:
The expert who writes in “Daily Writing Tips” considers “literally” to be a word with a precise meaning that’s getting hi-jacked. “Literally is one of those words like crazy, awesome, and wicked that are overused in inappropriate contexts by speakers unaccustomed to thinking about the meaning of words. Annoying? Yes. Destroying the language? Probably not.”
This expert has also written: “Correctly, ‘literally’ should be used when a turn of phrase usually employed in a metaphorical sense enjoys a rare moment of non-metaphorical applicability: the phrase becomes true in a literal, words-meaning-exactly-what-they-say sense. Now it’s being substituted for ‘very’—e.g., literally furious, literally champing at the bit, literally scared me half to death.”
Here’s how dictionary.com defines lit•er•al•ly (adverb)
Did you notice how 3 and 4 contradict one another? We haven’t resolved anything!
To summarize, using “literally” as “very” is looked down on by traditionalists. Nevertheless, it shows up in all except the most carefully edited work.
Put me in the camp with the traditionalists who prefer the original “pure” meaning as defined in dictionary.com’s 1, 2, and 3. If you truly care about precision in your writing, stick with us!
by Barbara McNichol
One of my favorite blogs–Daily Writing Tips–keeps bringing up language issues that hit home for lovers of the English language.
A recent blog post addressed how the meaning of “literally” has seemingly changed (not for the better, in my opinion). It’s controversial and fun to read!
Take in this well-researched rant and weigh in with your opinion.
You may have missed all the fuss when the media discovered that the Oxford English Dictionary has added an entry for the figurative use of literally.
Among the wails of outrage and dismay was this from a Reddit user: “We did it guys, we finally killed English.”
Here’s the offending OED entry:
literally: colloq. Used to indicate that some (freq. conventional) metaphorical or hyperbolical expression is to be taken in the strongest admissible sense: ‘virtually, as good as’; (also) ‘completely, utterly, absolutely’.
Anguished cries of indignation are still echoing across the web. Apparently a lot of commenters imagine that adding a word to a dictionary reflects an automatic endorsement.
Dictionaries record words that people say. The entry that raised such a stir in August 2013 was actually added in September 2011. My copy of the Compact Oxford English Dictionary—the one you read with the accompanying rectangular magnifying glass—doesn’t have a separate entry, but it does note this use of literally and gives an example from 1863. The new OED entry includes an example from 1769.
Like it or not, in the 21st century, literally is widely used as a mindless intensifier. Just browse the web:
Poor old OED. If they label a word “nonstandard, “or “vulgar,” they’re castigated for being prescriptive. If they give space to a new twist on an old word, they’re accused of opening the door to the destruction of the English language.
Just because a word is “in the dictionary” doesn’t compel us to use it in our own writing or speech. The OED has an entry for irregardless, but only the most uninformed English speaker would use the word in a serious context.
The “new” definition of literally doesn’t come without a caveat:
Now one of the most common uses, although often considered irregular in standard English since it reverses the original sense of literally (‘not figuratively or metaphorically’).
Attempting to control the way other people use language is futile. So is getting upset when they don’t use words the way you want them to.
Literally is one of those words like crazy, awesome, and wicked that are overused in inappropriate contexts by speakers unaccustomed to thinking about the meaning of words. Annoying? Yes. Destroying the language? Probably not.
For my part, I intend to continue using the word wicked to mean “evil or morally wrong,” although I won’t have any difficulty understanding a Facebook comment that says, “My mother makes wicked pies.”
As for using literally to intensify a metaphor, I don’t plan to do it myself, but I always enjoy the terrific images some of them conjure up, like this one:
“That’s literally opening a team up and putting them to the sword” – Niall Quinn
by Kathleen Watson According to merriam-webster.com, scientists in the mid-19th century needed a word to describe the … Read more »