7 Tips for Word Economy

“Trust a word to do its work,” writes author Stephen Wilbers in Keys to Great Writing.

That’s good advice. To make every word work or count, unnecessary words must go. From Wilbers’ chapter titled “Economy,” here are seven pointers on how to trim fat from sentences.

1. Delete redundant modifiers. (Examples: past history, personal beliefs, sudden crisis.)
2. Delete redundant categories. (Examples: period in time, shiny in appearance.)
3. Replace redundant word pairs with single words. (Examples: one and only, precious and few.)
4. Replace wordy expressions with single words. (Example: Instead of “based on the fact that” use “because.”)
5. Manage sentence endings to increase emphasis. Park “VIP” words near the period. (Example: Banks fear the threat of foreclosures.)
6. Take the most direct route. (Use action verbs, avoid needless attribution.)
7. Limit personal commentary. (Unless you’re writing a blog or opinion piece.)

Word economy is a copywriter’s defense against banality. As Poynter Institute writing coach Chip Scanlon once said, “Write tight.”

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