Whose ready for a good spring cleaning?
The cleaning lady came last week to put the final polishing touches on my manuscript. Armed with a delete button rather than a broom and dustpan, she got rid of extra words without mercy. If there was an “even” or a “just” it got swept away faster than nimble Jack could jump over the candlestick. The maid
even found a couple of “started to” phrases. She tisked, thinking I should know better. Maybe she relished cutting 600 words from 76.000 because she left with a big grin on her face. Do you want to know my most common offending word? It’s as simple as . . . that!
That. Half the time it simply isn’t needed for clarity. Read the sentence through without it while concentrating on meaning. Here’s an example of one I kept, one I didn’t within the same sentence:
Now that the king practiced a gentler rule and believed that all men were equal, he . . . .
Which one can you live without? I deleted the second to read:
Now that the king practiced a gentler rule and believed all men were equal, he . . . .
When you find that preceding a verb, you can often delete it and change the verb to the “ing” form. For example:
The arm that held the weapon moved to strike. → The arm holding the weapon moved to strike.
The priest made a noise in his throat that sent him into a coughing fit. → The priest made a noise in his throat, sending him into a coughing fit.
Don’t forget to check through your MS for untidy words. You can find lists online. Here’s a few to generally avoid: a little, almost, anyway, began to, proceeded to, started to, even, fairly, just, probably, really, slightly, somewhat, sort of, that, usually, very.