Want to be a better editor? Here are more phrases to excise from your writing.
In the spring, we noted some examples of phrases that might be distracting or unnecessary in your prose. Since many of you found these suggestions helpful, here’s another round of phrases to avoid:
1. In today’s blog…
A blog is your site, posts and pages and all. What you probably meant to write is: “In today’s post…” Or: “In today’s blog post…” Posts make up the content you create on a regular basis, while your blog is your complete online home, your site, on which you publish your posts.
That said, think back to other introductory phrases we’ve talked about: “In this post, I will explain…” or “Today, I will write about…”
This phrase, too, is unnecessary:
In today’s blog,I’d like to share some of the best commentaries I’ve read about the events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri.
View your opening lines with a critical eye — there’s likely a word, or three, that you can cut.
2. Click on this link to read more.
Links are organic parts of our posts and essential to the online reading experience. When embedding links in your text, don’t disrupt the reader — in other words, the best “link drops” are the ones you don’t even notice. Let’s say you’re writing about a story you read. You might write:
I read a recent article about a couple who decided to have part of their son’s brain surgically removed. You can click on this link to read it: http://blog.longreads.com/2014/08/26/what-happens-when-you-remove-half-a-brain-from-someone/
There’s nothing wrong with the above — ultimately, you direct the reader to the story to which you’re referring. But here’s a more seamless way to approach it:
I read a recent article about a couple who decided to have part of their son’s brain surgically removed.
Embedding a link in part of your text cleans up your prose.
Likewise, a phrase like “check out the blog/website here” — while not incorrect — is a bulky way to direct your readers elsewhere. Instead of:
I love the memoir and essays from the women writers at Vela magazine. Check out the website here: http://velamag.com/
I love the memoir and essays from the women writers at Vela magazine.
3. In order to / as you can see / I think that
No, it’s not a crime to use any of these (and similar) phrases. But do pay attention to each word in a sentence. When you proofread a post before clicking “Publish,” take a (virtual) red pen to your prose, excising extraneous text — not just adverbs and single words, but casual and conversational “filler” phrases.
* This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. You’ll find that sometimes you need a phrase — for dialogue, to preserve voice, to create a rhythm, and more.
I’ve sometimes let these phrases be, too scared to strip a thought or emotion naked. But once I remove them, I realize the writing is sharper, tighter, and better.*
Consider this passage, pared to the essentials:
In orderTo write my news story, I interviewed a dozen spectators to get a fuller picture of what happened. But it wasn’t so easy , as you can see. Some people don’t like talking to strangers about neighborhood matters. I think thatIf I could redo the experience, I’d have better prepared with more research about the community.
It’s easy for excess to creep into our writing, so take the time to read your work before publishing. Are there other phrases that deserve the cut?