Three small mistakes

rogersgeorge on January 13th, 2012

(My apologies to those of you who got the unfinished version of this post a couple days ago. I clicked the wrong button, and I could not stop the RSS feed.)

So many of these little mistakes exist, I would make you cross-eyed if I tried to cover more than about three at a time, and you would forget most of them anyway. So here are three, and they are similar. That should help you remember them. They all involve using unnecessary words.

I call these sorts of things the Hard Part of Writing, by the way, because they are items that require you to think about what you’re writing to get them correct.

Rule 1. When you use “additional,” be sure you need it. I recently read an article about being persuasive. Among the article’s good advice was a comment to use a headline, and then write a paragraph that supports the headline with additional details. What’s wrong with that? A headline does not have details. It’s a headline! The details are not additional. So:

Write a headline, then write a paragraph that supports the headline with details.

That’s not only cleaner, it’s truer.

Rule 2. When you use “different,” be sure you need it. You encounter this mistake when you see writers make informal lists. “Ten different people friended me  after I told my doggie story.” Get rid of that “different,” and you have a cleaner sentence. It goes without saying (if you think) that you wouldn’t be writing about ten of the same person. Since they have to be different people, you don’t have to say so.

Ten people friended me after I told my doggie story.

I could have used “circled me” in the example, but then it would have been a hundred people, and some of them would have been really different, if you know what I mean.

Rule 3. The third little mistake is saying what you’re going to say. Perhaps you see these unnecessary words most in expressions such as “I’d like to say (thank you for all these wonderful gifts)…”  and “I just want to say that (you’re the best audience ever)…” These introductory expressions are unnecessary. (I was going to say “totally unnecessary” but “totally” is as unnecessary as “different”). They are a way of stepping back from actually saying what you have on your mind by saying that you’re going to say it. Just say what you want to say.

Thank you for all these wonderful gifts. You are the best audience ever.

More personal, direct, and straightforward, isn’t it? Since this is the Hard Part of Writing, I have an assignment for you: Write a short paragraph of nice things about someone, and see how many unnecessary words you can leave out. You have permission to send it to them.

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