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Declutter Your Prose: Three Phrases to Avoid in Your Posts

Unnecessary phrases, be gone! Here are three quick ways to copy edit your writing and declutter your prose.

On The Daily Post, we want to help you improve your writing and offer concrete advice to craft clear, crisp prose. As an editor on WordPress.com, I read many, many posts each day on our platform; it’s worth pointing out words and sentences that might detract from your writing.

Here are three ways to copy edit your writing and declutter your prose:

1. In this post, I will explain . . .

When we draft posts, we naturally dump our inner monologues onto the page. And that’s good — that’s the beauty of free writing and cranking out first drafts: we have material we can later rework, cut, and move around.

Before you hit “Publish,” scan your intro for phrases like “In this post, I will explain…” or “Today, I will write about…” and similar phrases. In your drafting process, just let go and type. But when you’re revising and editing, excise these phrases that initially helped your train of thought, but are no longer needed:

In this post, I want to add my thoughts to the ongoing discussion about why Jill Abramson was fired from the New York Times. I read an interesting piece in the New Yorker by Ken Auletta about why . . .

2. Sorry for my absence, but . . .

You don’t need to apologize to your readers for not blogging for a while. We all have jobs and families and priorities — if you disappear for several months, that’s normal! But when you decide to get back into it, just dive in. There’s no need to explain yourself (unless, of course, you want to tell that story).

Write your next post as if no time has passed, and avoid wasting your introduction on secondary details on where you’ve been. You might lose readers in that first paragraph, which is where you’re supposed to reel them in! Some visitors, then, may not reach the real meat of your post.

In short: get to the point.

3. This post is in response to . . .

The community on The Daily Post is pretty awesome — we’re glad to see hundreds of responses to prompts each day and so many writing and photo challenge submissions each week. It’s easy to fall into a habit when you publish a similarly formatted post each week and reuse phrases like “This post is in response to this week’s photo challenge, On the Move,” or “Here is my answer to Blog Your Block, this week’s writing challenge on The Daily Post.”

Think of varied, creative ways to introduce your challenge submissions, or weave links to the original challenge posts naturally in your text. Instead of . . .

Here is a shot of my work of art. This post is my answer to this week’s photo challenge.

. . . try this alternative, in which your prose is the star of the post:

We all stumble upon examples of art, each day. We might be walking to work, on our morning run, or rushing through a subway station. The works of art that are unexpected and mundane are often the most beautiful, as you can see . . .

In the example above, your own voice and ideas are the focus, rather than the bulky mention and link to the original challenge.

We hope these three quick tips help to declutter your writing!

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  1. I’ve learned that if I can take out a phrase or two in an article I should do it. Hence why it’s so important to write and then leave the text for a second reading later. I always end up cutting here and there.
    As an avid reader of many blogs, some posts are so long I give up reading after the first paragraphe.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. #1 is perfect. I teach this in my writing classes. I tell them, “When you’re going to hand someone a cup of coffee, you don’t preface by saying, ‘And now, I’m going to hand you a cup of coffee’; you just do it.”

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  3. Thanks Cheri, your reminder highlights the importance of writing in a way which quickly hooks the reader’s interest. Why should she read further than the title? What key information is the post offering? Which of her problems will it solve? Anything which clutters up the communication process has to go.

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  4. Fantastic advice. I’ve found that my writing continues to improve not only with practice, but with the application of the expert recommendations I find here. Thank you so much! WP Rocks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent advice, thank you for it! I’m a bit unsure about no. 3 though. I’m guilty of this transgression against brevity: but I want my readers to know that my post is in response to a blogging prompt. Are there any less pervasive ways to tell the reader, besides the admittedly awkward “This post is in response to…”?

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  6. I almost never edit my posts and I probably should. I get so excited to post it and I absolutely despise editing. However, I’ve learned if I let it sit for a day I’ll come back to it and I can make it even better or realize what a crappy job I did. I should spend more time editing, thanks for reminding me!

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    1. I would say try not to ramble too much. If something needs explaining by all means, but if not then avoid that. When I’m writing a review for a story example, I try not to give away too many plot lines so as to not to ruin it. Because of that, I can repeat myself and ramble. I’m new to this as well so maybe this will help.

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  7. I agree with points 1 and 3 but point 2 is a bit less clear cut. It is a matter of courtesy to your regular readers to apologise if you have been absent without forewarning them. I have seen some of my regular contacts expressing concern when a fellow blogger has dropped below the radar for a period of time without warning. Equally – advising people that you will be away is an open invitation to burglars so you shouldn’t do that. Therefore, the only reasonable approach is that apology for absence post – of course, if you can turn it it into something a bit more than just an apology then you have a worthwhile post anyway!

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      1. Lol – I wish I was that organised – my posts happen when the idea happens. But that is a good idea for other more organised bloggers 🙂

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    1. These are merely suggestions and not necessarily the “right” way to do things — having a consistent formatting for posts might make sense for people who’d like to retain a specific look on their blogs, for example. There’s value in both approaches! It depends on what feels best for you and your work, ultimately.

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      1. It might be time to shake things up a bit on some of the challenges I take part in though. I agree, others probably suit consistency. Thanks for the response Cheri – much appreciated xx

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  8. These are great. Especially the last one. I always want to acknowledge when writing from a prompt etc but never feel I’ve got it just right. Thank you.

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  9. Thank You!!! There is nothing more unnecessary than a blogger trying to validate their time lapse between posts – regardless of how long it’s been. It makes me cringe everytime I read the words, “It’s been a long time since my last post”

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  10. Thank you for these tips. When photoblogging, I have posted my photo and a link to the challenge. Nothing more. But I think weaving a bit of backstory into my presentation might be more interesting.

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