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Filter out the Junk Words

by Kelly Lynne, editor

Streamlining your text to remove junk words and unneeded qualifiers can be the difference between 61 words of confusion and 14 words of clarity.

Question Marks Over Man Showing Confusion And UncertaintyI just now very often saw maybe a little bit some unneeded words that usually nearly always began to suddenly seem to actually almost start to muddy what I thought I knew I felt the story was about. I realized I could see it was then that I knew in order to review it that I really had to trim a lot.

This is an exaggeration, clearly, but I trust my point will be taken by any serious writer. Of the above drek, the only useful terms within are: unneeded words, muddy what, the story, about, review, had to trim.

Unneeded words muddy what the story is about; upon review, I had to trim.
Isn’t that more clear (aside from the verb tense issue)?

That’s a 77% reduction in word count in my example.

The cry goes out across the genres, “My word count is too high! I don’t know what to cut!” Perhaps tightening of these words and phrases could be a solution. You may experience a 1-10% drop in word count, assuming you can craft better sentences than my example at the top, but this could be enough to squeeze your giant manuscript into the 150k or less size. Perhaps no scenes need be cut ruthlessly out.

Professional editors, both developmental and copy editors, are trained to seek and destroy verbiage that gets in the way of telling your story.

Okay, I’ve found all the “that” and “was” and “just” and all the other words you say are evil. Do I just delete them? My sentences look awkward and I struggle to rephrase around these missing terms in most places. My voice disappears too. Help!

Self-editing can catch a good percentage of craft ills once the writer is trained to find them, but many times keeping or tossing a word like “almost” is a judgment call that depends upon the placement in the story. Is it dialogue? An action scene? Description? Does rephrasing the sentence turn it into such an awkward pretzel that the reader would have been better off with the qualifier or other previous phrasing? Sometimes the answer is yes. Leave it. This is where the professional editing eye and ear will help you most.


Kelly Lynne edits multiple genres of both adult and YA/middle grade fiction.

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