Lazy Words – Fire Them

The easiest way to lower the word count in your copy is to eliminate the words that aren’t doing any work. Non-working words are easy to spot but you actually have to look for them. Wait a minute, one just slipped in. See it back there? Hiding between ‘you’ and ‘have’? Yep, that’s it, ‘actually’ isn’t doing any work.

Words like actually, suddenly, basically and shortly rarely do any work. They simply don’t help you move your story forward. Oh, there’s another one. ‘Simply’.

Watch for those lazy verbs too. Was, are, have been- slackers all. Want to know something else? Lazy words breed more words. For example,

“How can you tell if your words are working or not”?

Or

“Do your words move the story”?

11 words in the first sentence, 6 in the second. Now we’re getting somewhere.

But what about the first sentence in this post? .

“The easiest way to lower the word count in your copy is to eliminate the words that aren’t doing any work”. 21 words

Not too bad, but how about,

“The easiest way to lower the word count in your copy is to eliminate non-working words”. 16 words.

Better, but still cluttered.

“Lower your word count by eliminating non-working words”. 8 words.

Even better, but I think I can make it shorter.

“Improve your copy. Eliminate unnecessary words”. 6 words

It’s difficult to remember to inspect your copy for non-working words. I forget frequently. But remembering will improve your writing.

GF 4.8

About these ads

  1. Now this is the DG I remember :)

    Great post.

  2. so is that plugin doing your reading level or doing it the old fashioned way? Interesting you went from a 12 to a 4, were we supposed to notice that, and draw any conclusions?

  3. DG

    Doing it the old fashioned way. Working on a plug-in. Draw no conclusions. Way too early for that. I’m also working on a Gunning-Fog algorithm that allows me to drop in literature to analyze. ; )

  4. If I removed lazy words I would have hardly any content :P The challenge for me is this kind of editing can make writing robotic and less human?

  5. DG

    >>robotic and less human?

    You can certainly over-edit and eliminate personality, but if you’re moving your message forward and the message is really yours I wouldn’t worry too much about removing your style. Style has a tendency to come out regardless of how many words are involved.

  6. I remember one award-winning writer’s 10 rules of writing. It’s a straightforward guide to effective writing.

  7. DG

    Thanks for the link Jonathan. 10 rules and no nonsense.

  8. It took me a while to find it again, but the Word Statistics Plugin at http://flagrantdisregard.com/wordstats/ is incredible for real-time analysis on readability using the Flesch-Kincaid method and the Gunning-Fog method. So, you can use these numbers to signal you on when you should re-write your copy!

  9. DG

    Thanks for that link, that little app is pretty impressive.

  10. Can I simply say such a comfort to discover person who essentially knows just what they’re discussing on the web. You actually discover how to bring a difficulty to light and make it critical. More people should learn it and understand this aspect of the story. I cant believe you’re not very popular because you surely have the gift.

  1. 1 Actual copywriting (and no a sensational headline doesn’t count) - Tech Soapbox

    [...] And yet none explicitly deal with the fundamental issue: too many damn words. [...]

  2. 2 Barcelona Internet Marketing Blog » Blog Archive » Writing quality original content

    [...] Fewer words [...]

  3. 3 Concise is good | ChillyCool Web Digger

    [...] Freely makes some great points about eliminating word clutter in this post.  Content may be king, but every word you put between your visitor and the finish line (a [...]




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


  • Blog Stuff

  • What People Are Saying

  • People Are Interested In

  • RSS Word Of The Day

  • RSS Quote Of The Day

    • Edith Wharton
      "There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
  • RSS Neologisms

    • procaffinating October 17, 2014
      procaffinating pp. Delaying or postponing something until one has had one or more cups of coffee; drinking coffee slowly as a delaying tactic. Also: pro-caffinating, procaffeinating. [procrastinating + caffeine] —procaffinate v. —procaffinator n. —procaffination n. Example Citations: Procaffinating is a perfect word that describes me on this lazy day as I am […]
    • fracktivist October 16, 2014
      fracktivist n. A person who campaigns or protests against the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract gas and oil from shale rock. Also: fractivist. [fracking + activist] —fracktivist adj. —fracktivism n. Example Citations: In greater numbers by the month, residents across north Orange County are calling for an end to fracking, joining a growing […]
    • NoMo October 15, 2014
      NoMo n. A woman who is not a mother, particularly by circumstance rather than by choice. (not + mother) Example Citations: Now there is even a new word for people like myself, Jennifer and the one in five women who find themselves in their mid-40s without children: NoMos, short for “not mothers” —Amanda Revell Walton, “Like Jennifer Aniston, I’ve accepted I’ […]
    • data fracking October 14, 2014
      data fracking pp. Using enhanced or hidden measures to extract or obtain data. Also: data-fracking. Example Citations: The Therapeutics Initiative’s Colin Dormuth is a Victoria researcher who already uses this information to study drug safety. After my article came out last month, he tweeted that allowing for-profit companies to mine our health data amounts […]
    • plyscraper October 10, 2014
      plyscraper n. A tall building made mostly from wood. Also: ply-scraper. [plywood + skyscraper] Example Citations: The buildings they envision have been dubbed “plyscrapers.” Their halting arrival into the mainstream of architecture represents a test case for whether the goal of sustainability can motivate a reversal of both long-term construction norms and t […]
    • prespond October 9, 2014
      prespond v. To respond to something in advance. Also: pre-spond. —presponsive adj. Example Citations: Let me attempt to “prespond” — a new word for anticipatory response — to potential defenses of voter ignorance. —Ken Herman, “Herman: How’s a voter to know” (subscription required), Austin American-Statesman (Texas), September 17, 2014   We know we are a gen […]
    • digital crowding October 8, 2014
      digital crowding n. Excessive, unmanageable, or unavoidable online social contact. Example Citations: “With all the focus on the legal aspects of privacy and the impact on global trade there’s been little discussion of why you want privacy and why it’s intrinsically important to you as an individual,” said Adam Joinson, professor of behavior change at the Un […]
    • cratedigger October 7, 2014
      cratedigger n. A person who spends a great deal of time in music stores combing through stacks of vinyl records; a DJ who has a large collection of vinyl records. Also: crate digger. —cratedigging pp. Example Citations: Serene psychedelia from the heart of Massachusetts — from a man whose fortunes were revived by cratediggers. —Rob Fitzpatrick, “The 101 stra […]
    • sufferfest October 3, 2014
      sufferfest n. A period of extreme suffering or discomfort brought on by intense physical exertion. Also: suffer-fest, suffer fest. Example Citations: A hundred years ago, when Robert Falcon Scott set out for Antarctica on his Terra Nova expedition, his two primary goals were scientific discovery and reaching the geographic South Pole. Arguably, though, Scott […]
    • statement socks October 2, 2014
      statement socks n. A pair of socks chosen to make an impression, to stand out, or to express something about oneself. Example Citations: An added bonus: Statement socks are an easy and often inexpensive indulgence. Though high-end designs are certainly available (you can buy $185 socks at Barney’s, should your path in life lead to that), you can also buy the […]
  • More Blog Stuff


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: