How to Condense Without Losing Anything Useful

Photo credit: M1keez on Flickr
It's not uncommon for writers to rely on filler words while writing—and especially while first drafting. From filter phrases to adverbs all over the place, drafts that aren't scrutinized to condense the writing are often full of words that unnecessarily clog up the writing.

Good news is while this is totally not something you should worry about while first drafting (seriously), when the time comes to take care of this issue, it's relatively easy to do. Time-consuming and painstaking, yes, but thankfully not too difficult to do.

To make it even easier, however, I've decided to add to my how to make cuts without losing anything useful post with more easy-to-remove words to look out for.

  1. Starts/begins to. This is actually a tip I picked up from my editor, and it's a good one—9/10 times when you preface an action with "starts to" or "begins to" you don't need that phrase. Just by describing the action, the readers assume it's just started unless otherwise stated. 

  2. Immediately/without warning. Like "suddenly" these words are usually unnecessary. I'll refer you to the other post for a longer explanation. 

  3. That. I'm not going to say you never need "that", but oftentimes I find "that" is super overused. In sentences like "She said that I should go," for example, removing the "that" improves the flow and we don't lose anything by cutting it. 

  4. Up/Down. For these two I only mean in very specific cases: sitting up/down, standing up/down, etc. In those cases, the up/down is unnecessary. 

  5. Dialogue + action tag. I see this a lot, and tend to do this a lot when first drafting and just slapping words down, but when you have a dialogue tag and an action tag, you usually only need one—and oftentimes I go with the action tag because it's more visual (although there are exceptions, of course). So, for example: "'Where've you been?' he said, scowling" could be condensed to "'Where've you been?' He scowled." 

  6. -ly adverbs. One of my last condensing steps is to go through and do a search for "ly" to cut down on my adverbs. While I definitely don't recommend removing all of them (adverbs can be useful!), writers in general tend to use them more than necessary, so it can be good to go through and do a quick sweep. 

So those are some words I look out for when condensing my writing—what phrases or words would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Need to lower your word count but not sure where to start? @Ava_Jae shares six easy condensing tips. (Click to tweet)
Do you tend toward wordiness? @Ava_Jae shares six ways to condense your writing. #edittip (Click to tweet)

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