Tips for omitting needless words

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style admonishes the writer to “Omit needless words” and so it should be heeded, as the healer’s oath is to first do no harm.

Though what I have always found strange since first reading the little black book in the Spring of 2003 after my little brother Will—a fine writer of both prose and poetry in his own right—bequeathed me a 1959 hardback edition, is that the most important commandment in the book is rule #13.

Regardless, omitting needless words has been a goal in all my writings hence, even if I sometimes or oftentimes fail to live up to said virtue.

That said, one of my favorite tools to streamline work is long lists of words and phrases which can—for the most part—be removed without detriment.

Of course, whenever I stumble upon some useful writing tip or article, I assume everyone else has already found it. Then I see all sorts of people in the writing community with questions and frustrations on the same topic and I realize they haven’t.

So, without further blah-blah, here are some links to those lists I’ve found most helpful:

My all-time favorite list of words to cut is the one at Diana Urban’s blog – 43 Words You Should Cut From Your Writing Immediately

If you’re into visuals, check out this infographic – 30 Filler Words You Can Cut Out of Your Writing (Infographic)

I haven’t used this one yet, as it’s quite new, but a cursory look tells me it’s filled with helpful ideas – 297 Flabby Words and Phrases That Rob Your Writing of All Its Power

If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it in a while, pick up a copy of The Elements of Style. I suggest reading it at least once a year as a refresher. And, at only 71 pages, it’s a whole lot of bang for your literary buck! Buy a copy here fairly cheap here

Over the years, the book has had its naysayers (like this guy) but I say “fuck that noise.” And I think Will Strunk Jr. would have found my response not only concise but apropos.