Want to improve your writing damn near instantly? There are many bad habits we all fall into (see my blog entries here for plenty of examples) that can be excised with a little effort and concentration.
I catch myself paying much more attention to these when I edit other people, but also when I am writing queries to high-value publications. I try to be compulsive about these with any communication with people who might be sending me checks, but especially so with the big ones. Check out my top five and watch your copy tighten up like magic.
5. Eliminate “that”, “and then”, “such as” wherever possible. You should also drop the word “and” in favor of commas where appropriate. Sometimes this rule won’t apply; where it does the line flows much better.
4. Use contractions where acceptable for more conversational writing. Avoid contractions in formal writing where you need a slightly more stuffy, authoritative tone.
3. Eliminate commas where one descriptor will do. Why write “The sleek, slim design…” unless you are trying to differentiate between something that is sleek and wide? When you need to do a comparison, keep the appropriate descriptors.
2. Lose “ly” endings where you can. There is an especially heinous example in an old Depeche Mode song where something “passes undectedly…” Um, WHAT? It can “pass undetected” instead. There’s no reason to write “The monkeys are readily available for parties.” You can just write “The monkeys are available for parties.”
1. Edit out the meaningless parts of a phrase. There is no such thing as “mentally insane,” a “bogus fake” or a “mental telepathy”. There’s just fake, insane, and telepathy. The same rules apply to the ‘vicious beating’. Unless you can conjure up a “pleasant beating,” dump the adjective and move on.