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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. Number 2 always gets me. I know folks whose blogs contain more apologies for not blogging than actual posts. 🙂

    (I’ll confess to doing the “this post is written in response to” bit…but I put that as a blurb at the end, not in the post itself.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for number three… I was feeling a little guilty for somehow not giving explicit cred for the idea! It seems like most responses contained some variation of this phrase so I felt like it was expected or something.

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  3. Reblogged this on Clothed with Joy and commented:
    I promise you, if I see what is described in #2 at the beginning of a post, I will not read it. I read a lot of blogs and I pretty much don’t read any of them that are cluttered as described in this post. Good stuff, worth reblogging.

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  4. Reblogged this on Angela's Accurate Administrative Services' Blog and commented:
    I always suggest that people who sincerely want to learn to write well also take time to read (books, magazines, other blogs – whatever tickles their fancy). Following are among three of the BEST writing tips I’ve come across in quite some time. Practice makes perfect!

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  5. Great advice. I try already to follow one and two, but may have to play with the third one a bit. It’s sometimes hard to do with fiction, especially, but there might be a way to make it work.

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  6. I always try to eliminate unnecessary words at the onset of my posts, but still usually have to trim them down when I come back to them. I wish I could get it right the first go. This is a really useful post. Thanks for it, I always get something out of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Avoid “almost”, “a bit”, “sort of”. If you are not sure of what you say, then when someone disagrees you can withdraw: but this makes your writing a tasteless mush.

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