Prune hard but know where to snip

Have you ever written a tweet but found it too long to broadcast? You read back to see what you can cut to make your message fit into 140 characters. Notice what kind of edits you typically make; if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself cutting words like ‘very’, ‘really’, ‘some’ or ‘any’.

There are many other words on my watch list when I’m reading copy:

Watch out for crutch words like ‘just’. This one often slips in unnoticed. Its adds little.

Use language of everyday speech, it’s shorter. So use:

“start” not “commence”,
“let” not “permit”,
“buy” not “purchase”
“although” not “despite the fact that”
“for” not “on behalf of”
“about” not “with reference to”
“now” not “at the present time”
“because” not “as a consequence of”

New. This word is overused. “The IT team introduced a new initiative to expedite operations.” Yes, it is new, but it is implicit and you don’t need to say it. If your company introduces a product or launches a service, new is redundant.

Some/any. These murky quantifiers usually add nothing. “Do we have any feedback from the survey?” “Yes, how about some analysis?”

In the process of. “The chef is in the process of cooking dinner”. Remove the vexing verbiage, and nothing is lost—you’ll be happily tucking in once dinner is ready.

Earlier/later. These two words always catch my eye—especially near the beginning or end of a month or year. If you mention “later this month” and it’s the 1st of the month, then, of course, it’s going to be later. The converse applies to earlier this month. Even in the middle of the month, let the verb tense do the work: “The minister introduced the bill this month” — it had to have been earlier in the month. “The final show of the season will take place this month.” Here, the future tense makes it clear that it’s happening before the month is over.

Future/so far. The same premise applies to future and so far. The verb does the work, rendering the modifiers pointless, as in: “The chairman is confident that the company will report good future growth”. It’s clear that the chairman will not be reporting good growth in the past.

Would like to…. “The management would like to wish Mr X all the best in his new career” is better in the present tense: “The management wishes Mr X all the best in his new career.”

Personally. ‘I personally believe that the bees are under threat from chemicals in the environment.’ No one ever impersonally believes .

Potentially/possibly. These adverbs crop up in emphasising can or could. You don’t need them.

Further. There’s no need to further elaborate, nor to further expand. The sense of progression that further conveys is implicit in those verbs.

Over and out for now!