Thursday, December 05, 2013

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen ways to strengthen your writing:

1. Eliminate these words most of the time: just, really, very, quite, almost, amazing, literally. These are filler words that echo the way we speak, but they weaken sentences. To say a diamond is "really hard" is silly. Hard is hard. The word doesn't need a modifier. What is the difference between being "good" and "quite good?"

2. Be strong and certain in your statements. Eliminate words such as perhaps, maybe,or the phrase in my opinion.

3. Use exact descriptions. Eliminate words such as stuff or things. Describe the stuff and things instead. Be specific.

4. Rewrite sentences that use the word got or get. This is a lazy word; instead of writing, "I got the truck stuck," rewrite for a more vivid sentence: "I drove the truck into a bank of mud, and it refused to move." Sure, more words, but definitely more descriptive.

5. Sentences that use forms of the verb to be, ie., am/are was/were and have been. Weak verbs make weak sentences. While these verbs may be useful for linking ideas, generally speaking sentences using to be verbs can be changed to more better convey ideas.

6. The verb have is also a weak verb. Example: I have a lunch scheduled for Friday. Better: I scheduled lunch for Friday.

7. Your sentences should incorporate a subject and a verb. Use them close to together and try not to separate them with wandering phrases.

8. Write in active voice, not passive voice. Do not confuse past tense for passive voice. Voice means the sentence is about the person doing something, not having something done to them. Example: The law was changed by the Virginia state legislature. Better: The Virginia state legislature changed the law.

9. Eliminate words that end in ly. Often, adverbs end in ly, and if a verb needs help, then the writer needs a better verb. Use your thesaurus.

10. Use metaphor and simile to bring color to your writing.

11. Edit for repeating words. Writers write the words they love, or the easy and lazy words, repeatedly throughout a piece sometimes. Look for repetitive language and eradicate it.

12. Incorporate the senses into your writing. How does the day taste, smell, feel, sound, look?

13. Learn proper punctuation. It's not cute when you decide not to capitalize your sentences or use periods to end them, it's irritating and hard to read. Pick up a grammar book and flip through it. Better yet, if you're a serious writer, spring for the hardback book or a subscription to The Chicago Manual of Style. Everything you need to know is in that book.

The idea for this came from this article:

Read more:

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 322nd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. The word 'that' seems to be used quite frequent also. Such as: It was only thing that she knew that would help her. (huh) or Jane thought that if David would do that for her,then she could go over to that store. 0what?)
    I don't know about 'In My Opinion'. It just may be my opinion I'm conveying in my writing. Once I think on it I will agree. oh, yes, the Chicago Manual of Writing, where did I place it? Love it and I should remember to use it more. Thanks for the topic!

  2. Ahem... "...Sentences using "to be" verbs can be changed to more better convey ideas." I believe the word "more" is superfluous here. :-D

    Personally, I constantly find myself deleting the word "just" from sentences, and not only am I irritated by people who don't use proper punctuation, but also those who type in all caps or use "text talk" on message boards or in emails. Whether we like it or not, people judge us by how we "talk" -- both online and in real life. If I see text talk on a message board, I instantly think (and sometimes, I admit, condescendingly), "high schooler."

  3. You described this process well. I often find myself confused about the passive/active voice. Although I usually can intuit when a sentence sounds better, I don't always know how to explain why, and sometimes I just write lazy.

  4. This is a great list. I'm going to share it so that I have it for later. I'm still a work-in-progress for #1; I'm in love with certain words and it's hard to late them go.

    The Food Temptress


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