Fight The Fluff!


The first and final rule of quality writing is this: what doesn't strengthen your writing, weakens it.

There are no neutral words when you're trying to be persuasive - every word must be doing real work and every sentence must be necessary. Don't say in two sentences what you can say in one; don't use five words when you can use three. Don't use a five-syllable word when an available two-syllable word means the same thing. Take the fluff out of your writing.

Fluff is the often subtle cancer that grows - and ultimately kills - good writing. If your writing isn't achieving the effects you want, consider a few of the warning signs of a fluff infection:

Redundancy. Analyze your writing for places where you are repeating yourself. It happens often, particularly when the writer isn't convinced that the reader will get the point without it. Give your reader some credit. Make each point once and make it effectively - and then don't make it again.

Tangents. A good piece of writing is one that makes a single effective point, supported by other lesser ones; anything that doesn't directly contribute to that support structure is a distraction and an excuse to stop reading. Don't take readers on side trips and don't let them catch their breath. Cut out anything that doesn't directly advance the final cause.

Ornamentation. Ornamentation happens when a writer is hit with a sudden burst of creativity, and the writing ends up saddled with clever turns of phrase that don't contribute anything but wit. This is what Hemingway was referring to when he advised writers to kill their darlings - art is all well and good, but make sure it keeps its day job.

Pointless modifiers. Adverbs (words that modify verbs) and adjectives (words that modify nouns) are a little like salt and pepper - useful in very small doses, very bad in big ones. They're often used by lazy writers in an attempt to convince generic nouns ("the beautiful, voluptuous woman") and verbs ("he ran very quickly") to do more interesting jobs. The English language is full of precision nouns and verbs; whenever possible, use the right words rather than trying to modify the wrong ones.

Needless qualifiers and hedging. Phrases like "and yet, on balance" and "it could be considered" destroy more confidence than they create. Be direct and write with strength: boldly write what you know, and leave out what you don't.

Pretentious language. Occasionally, we all have a crisis of confidence that leads us to think that we need large words and cumbersome sentences in order to be taken seriously. This is when it is time to take a nap and let the feeling pass; "extraneous solutions that minimally impact positive budget modifications" is never going to sound better than "it won't work because it costs more than it'll make back".

About The Author

Robert Warren (www.rswarren.com) is a Florida-based freelance copywriter specializing in the unique marketing needs of independent professionals.

writer@rswarren.com


MORE RESOURCES:
RELATED ARTICLES
Publication Road
The journey to having my first novel for children published has been riddled with road blocks and shonky bridges. The good news? At every rickety stage I've picked up tips (and anti-tips) which I'm happy to share with everyone.
Learn to Talk on Paper: The Art of Effective Business Writing
Rudolf Flesch, a specialist in writing skills, ran classes for over thirty years for civil servants, lawyers, bankers and the like, on writing business correspondence. Two tips he stressed over and over again in his classes.
To Tell If You Are A Literary Snob
"I don't know if I should put 'writer' on my business card," I murmured."Then don't," my wife said in her infinite wisdom.
Becoming a Writer
The urge to write fiction seems God given for some, a learned skill for others.One thing is certain - it requires practice and a particular mindset.
Generating Nonfiction Book Titles Without a Hassle
The process of developing a working title for your nonfiction book can be a hassle sometimes. You first have to brainstorm a few titles, and if the results aren't to your liking, you are practically forced to brainstorm more possible titles --- or do you?One way to shorten this process is to have a book title bank at your fingertips that will include trigger titles, such as the ones listed below:Techniques for ----One Way to ----How to ----Handbook for -----Protecting ----Investing for ----Saving Your -----Finding Security in -----Fixing -----Getting -----Each of the sample triggers above has one or more missing words for you to fill in.
Starting a Freelance Writing Career (or Thoughts About Taking the Plunge)
Nike's ad has taken on new meaning for me of late; "Just do it!" runs through my mind like a mantra. Although my dreams have nothing to do with athletic shoes and little to do with athletics (unless you count the long list of ideas I have developed which revolve around my sons and their activities), I have spent a long time avoiding the one thing I've always wanted to do - write.
A Writers Inner Battle
There is a psychological nuisance so powerful that can deflate the drive, self-esteem, and human spirit of many aspiring Writers of any age. These Writers are faced with an obstacle that make them stop, think twice and question their right to be a part of a respected community.
The Dreaded Daily Word Count
Open any book on 'how to write,' and somewhere you will find a discussion of how many words you should write every day. Forget the struggle to get ourselves to the paper or the computer every day, now we have to produce a certain number of words?Me? I don't write every day (Quick! Call the Writer Police!), I don't do 2000 words, and you don't have to either.
How to Use Textpad to Write Articles Faster
It's a good idea to use TextPad because all opt-in ezine publishers want your articles without any formatting. Also, for any email exchange, you need to put your article in the body of the email, not an attachment.
Write Your Life
Take out a white piece of paper and place it on your kitchen table. You now have two choices.
What Does It Take To Make Your Memories Into Publishable Memoirs?
Why should you consider creating a memoir of your personal experiences for publication?Who would want to read your life story?I believe the main reason you may want to think about writing a memoir of your life is fairly simple. Everyone has different experiences in life that we learn from, that shape our lives, that hurt us, help us, give us insight, and allow us to grow.
Writing for Local Veterinary Hospitals
Freelance writer STANLEY BURKHARDT has a passion for animals. He loves animals so much, he crafted himself a new career.
How to Write Bad Poetry
So you've decided to crown yourself with a title that a million other people (just like you (yes, just like you!)) give themselves every day. Some people believe giving yourself such a title is equivalent to, and just as beneficial monetarily, as naming yourself Queen of England.
7 Essential Letter Writing Strategies
Based on the feedback that I have been getting from visitorsto my writinghelp-central.com Web site, letter writing isdefinitely the area where most people are looking for helpor guidance when it comes to day-to-day writing.
New Year Resolutions for Writers - The Best Kind to Make and How to Keep Them
On the first day of a bright and shiny new year, stretching out ahead of us full of possibilities, it's so easy to feel a sense of determination. ("This year I'm DOING it! I'm going to write a book / lose weight / take more time for myself.
Could Your Book Idea Be the Next Best Seller?
Everyone has a unique story to tell. From explaining business processes to revealing our personal history, we all have a natural desire to share our experiences with the world.
Planning Time To Write
In his book, "Achieving Financial Independence as a Freelance Writer," Ray Dreyfack, a full-time freelancer for 30 years, suggests that writers "ease" into full-time writing while maintaining their day jobs. If you're following this advice, either by choice or by necessity, you know that it's not always easy.
Self-Examination
Self-examination sheds light on a writers motives, goals, and aspirations, while self indulgence hide the obvious and absorbs any illumination before it occurs.When a writer exams his motives, goals, and aspirations, he opens up new viewpoints because he or she sees other avenues to writing; perhaps the short story writer can see a novel develop from the theme of a short story, or an article to clarify that subject matter.
Writing New Ideas
Someone once commented that there were no new ideas to write, that all that could be done was a recombination of the words and phrases for a deeper, more personal expression of meaning. They have completely missed the point and purpose to 'writing'.
Childrens Stories - The Essentials
There is no specific formula for children's fiction. There are, however, some necessities.

Home | Articles Site Map