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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

                            Off the Page...
Working with the Write Words
by Tama Westman

You have a way with words, right? You can manipulate syllables, phonics and the alphabet to create works of art, in-depth stories, and intriguing prose. So, why do editors seemingly pass by your perfect piece in favor of a less interesting one? Words, baby, words.

Newspaper, magazine, even book and Web editors have developed a thick skin. Writing that contains any of their pet peeves will surely see the reject pile. Here’s an inside glimpse into the words to watch out for. Edit these from your completed manuscript before submission.

No Unnecessary nouns, verbs, modifiers
Unnecessary nouns placed in prepositional phrases that we think make us “sound” smarter, only prove to fatten sentences, ultimately distracting the reader’s attention from a stronger noun.

the process of elimination change to elimination

the volume of sales rose change to  sales rose

the field of microbiology change to  microbiology

This editing process works similarly with excessive verbs or “helping” verbs.

is indicative of change to indicates

serve to make reductions change to reduce

provide a summary of change to summarize

Noun modifiers, often thought to clarify, become sentence bogglers. Beware of these:

the children who were involved change to the children were

the facts presented in change to the facts in

the statistics that are contained in change to the statistics in

Do you see how much simpler the alternatives are? You’ve heard it often enough, editors have become the hounded and do not have time to edit your manuscript. To get it past his desk and to publication, you must learn to trim the fat, delete every unnecessary word and phrase and still pack your piece with punch.

Stop "It"
There are two places where you want to eliminate the use of “it” as a sentence opener. Whenever you find yourself writing It is…, It was…, or It will be…, with a subject following, and then a who, that, or which, chew off your fingernails, erase it and start over. This formula required too many words to state the subject.

It is Janie who called change to Janie called

It was StarCo that complained change to StarCo complained

There, There
The same rule applies for sentences you begin with the pronoun “there.”

There are many teachers that do change to Many teachers do

There are some supporters who are change to Some supporters are

Weak Words
You can remove the following words from most manuscripts without changing your meaning. Editors find these to be weak modifiers.

in fact

I committed a major faux pas when I used the phrase in fact in a news story. My editor called me in to the office and explained. The reader assumes that every word you write in a news story is fact. By using the phrase, in fact, you only serve to confuse the reader and lessen your own credibility. Quite a lesson.

Now, that you are on the path to trimmer, leaner sentences and manuscripts, you will see more words that can be cut. Ask yourself, Is there a shorter word that would work here? Is there a more concrete word to replace an abstract term? Am I using friendly, everyday language easy for the reader to understand? Do I have any contractions mistakenly typed in?

Edit with gusto. Go with your gut. The fat will leave your manuscripts and, as you sell more stories, find its way to your bank account, a much better place for it.

Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. As a correspondent and columnist, she publishes news articles, feature stories and her column, Cuppa Thoughts, regularly with her local paper, the Chaska Herald. She has served as the editor of the award-winning literary magazine, Haute Dish. Her articles appear in several local newspapers and, nationally in The Gathering and Light & Life Magazine.

She teaches creative writing and poetry classes with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, mentors high school journalism students, and teaches beginning and intermediate writers at conferences throughout the country. Married with two grown children, she keeps her balance with a cup of tea taken in the afternoon in her English garden. Further samples of her writing can be viewed on her Web site, http://www.tamawestman.com feel free to e-mail comments to tama@tamawestman.com









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