Downloadable PDF: The Ultimate Editing List
Through years of writing, editing, and learning I have created a master list of words/phrases that I eliminate from my writing. I use the “Find” tool in Microsoft Word to help me with this task.
I have shared posts in the past with select words that every writer should try to cut such as: Eliminate Redundancies and Words to Cut out of Your Writing, but I am combining both lists plus including dozens more here:
Redundant/incorrect phrases to fix:
• He thought to himself = He thought
• She made her way = She went
• Low/soft whisper = Whisper
• Checked/check out = Checked/check
• Reason(s) why = Reason(s)
• Right here = Here
• Meet with = Meet
• Final outcome = Outcome
• Added bonus = Bonus
• Total blackout = Blackout
• Bald-headed = Bald
• Visibly Upset = Upset
• Try out = Try
• Each and every = Each
• As many as = Up to
• Turned back = Turned
• Turned around = Turned
• Return back = Return
• Continued on = Continued
Take out words such as "up" and "down."
• Stand/stood up = Stand/stood
• Sit/sat down = Sit/sat
• Lifted/picked up = Lifted/picked
• Knelt/stooped down = Knelt/stooped
• Dropped down = dropped
• Descended down = Descended
• Woke/wake up = Woke/wake
• Rise up = Rise
• Rest up = Rest
• Fix up = Fix
Why? Because the direction/action is already stated.
Here is a list of words to cut because they clutter sentences:
Example: She swore that it would never happen again.
Better: She swore it would never happen again.
Example: Jamie and Matt both wanted ice cream
Better: Jamie and Matt wanted ice cream.
Note: While I try to eliminate as many of these as I can, I still use “just” and “only” every now and then, like in dialogue.
Cut these words to make clear, assertive statements:
Example: The cut hurt slightly.
Better: The cut hurt.
Example: Now stop it!
Better: Stop it!
|Image from Pixabay|
Phrases to eliminate to make your writing more specific:
That had been
Example: “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Better: The night was dark and stormy.
Tell your readers exactly what “it,” “that,” and “there” refers to so your meaning is clear.
Cut these phrases to eliminate telling:
He/She/I saw (or watched)
Correct phrase meanings/uses:
Site is a place
Sight is vision
Affect (verb) means to influence someone/thing (weather conditions affect)
Effect (noun) is a result of something (side effects of medication)
Could careless = Couldn’t careless
Shouldn’t of = Shouldn’t have (same for "wouldn't of" and "couldn't of")
By who = By whom
Only had = Had only
Try and = Try to
All of = All
Off of = Off
Eliminate passive voice:
Passive voice is when the subject of a sentence is acted upon. Active Voice is when the subject of a sentence is the doer of the action.
Passive: Ben was attacked by a swarm of bees.
Active: A swarm of bees attacked Ben.
NOTE: It's not totally wrong to use passive voice. For example: "My car was stolen!" is a correct sentence if your character doesn't know who stole their car.
- He/she felt
- He/she saw/watched
- He/she heard
- He/she thought
- He/she wondered
Example: She watched the bird hop from branch to branch.
Better: The bird hopped from branch to branch.
Example: He saw her blush and bite her lip.
Better: She blushed and bit her lip.
Eliminate how many sentences begin with these words back-to-back:
He/she (third person)
I (first person)
Variety is the spice of...writing. ;)
Clichés I look for to rewrite or delete:
- Stopped in his/her tracks
- Yell at the top of his/her lungs
- At his/her fingertips
- Sigh of relief
- Blood boil
- Glaring sun
- Cold as ice
- Hot as hell
- Scared to death
- Eyes were glazing over
- Bared her soul
- In the blink of an eye
- All hell broke loose
- Time flies
- Deer caught in headlights
- Pale as a ghost
I am constantly learning and adding more words/phrases to this list. After all, writing is a never-ending learning process.
SHARE: Words you delete when you’re editing, and I’ll add them to my list!