Whacking Wordiness Cuts through the Dreaded Clutter by Barbara McNichol

Barbara McNichol

In the classic book from the 1930s, The Elements of Style, the authors Strunk and White called word clutter “the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood out of words.” You never want to be accused of that!

So what can you do? Start cutting the clutter by eliminating extraneous phrases that muddy your writing. Consider “whacking” these phrases whenever you can:

  • “is intended to, meant to, designed to” e.g., He gives a workshop that is designed to teach writing skills. Better: He gives a workshop that teaches writing skills.
  • “it is all about”; “the fact of the matter is”; “the fact that”; “it’s important to remember that” e.g., The fact of the matter is that it’s unwise to go out carousing. Better: It’s unwise to go out carousing.
  • “in regard to” e.g., Seek additional websites in regard to your industry. Better: Seek additional websites in your industry.
  • “is going to” e.g., He is going to be a key contributor. Better: He will be a key contributor.
  • “in order to” e.g., Add key words in order to describe the new position. Better: Add key words to describe the new position.
  • “there is” and “there will be” e.g., There will be many managers attending the meeting. Better: Many managers will attend the meeting.
  • “the reason why is that . . .” A simple “because” will suffice.
  • “at this time” . . . Now!

To reinforce this, take something you wrote and circle any of these extraneous phrases. Challenge yourself to rework or remove them altogether. You may choose to keep some in, but at least you’ve asked the question: “Do I really need this phrase?” (You don’t need “really” here.)

Keep this list handy. What would you add to it? Comment here.


Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping authors add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource so you can quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through excellent weekly resources in your inbox, including a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Details at www.WordTrippers.com

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit with templates, worksheets and checklists for writing nonfiction. Check it out!

Post a Comment