101 Ways to Improve Your Writing

If you kind of want to be a little better writer, sort of do a search for these useless words, if you want. Oh! Please. Produce better writing by following these simple tips.

Before submitting your work, do a search for these words and delete them. The result will make text stronger, cut word count, and speed the pace leaving your story polished and professional. 

Edit Your Writing

Let’s Get Started – Improve Your Writing!

Chances are high “that” won’t change the meaning.

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • Can you tell me more?
  • Tell me more. 

Chances are higher you can “just” delete it from your writing.

  • Isn’t she just the cutest little girl?
  • Isn’t she the cutest little girl?
  • She’s the cutest!

And “then” you can delete the silly and repetitive “then”.

  • I got the mixer out and then added butter and sugar and then mixed it and then added baking soda and flour and then….
  • I creamed the butter and sugar until fluffy. Lowering the speed on the mixer,  I added the dry ingredients. 

Unnecessary Words

If the word doesn’t add information, toss it. (absolutely, actually, basically, certainly, completely, definitely, literally, totally, virtually) 

  • The garage was completely full of junk. 
  • The garage was full of junk. 
  • She would definitely go on the date.
  • She would go on the date.

Unnecessary words can be removed. (began, begin, begun, start)

  • She began to shake her head.
  • She shook her head.
  • He started to pick her fingernails when questioned.
  • He picked her fingernails when questioned.

Speaking of unnecessary, get rid of down and up.

  • I sat down on the chair.
  • I sat on the chair.
  • She stood up.
  • She stood.

Replace these overused words and show what made them breathe slowly or exhale sharply. (breath, breathe, exhaled, inhaled)

  • She exhaled slowly before telling him she was pregnant, this turn of events wasn’t in their plans.
  • She prayed he’d take the unexpected news well, a child wasn’t in their plans. 
  • He breathed quickly before begging for his life. 
  • Pleading for his life, Kevin said, “I don’t want to die.”
  • Kevin pleaded, “I don’t want to die.”

Resist the urge to have characters nod, reach, and shrug too often.

Strengthen Your Writing

Find stronger verbs and adjectives, eliminate really and very.

  • She sat in the very full car and didn’t look forward to the really long drive.
  • She squeezed into the cramped car, the three hour drive loomed.

Get to the point. Don’t hedge. (almost, hardly, kind of, little, may, might, probably, quite, rather, slightly, somehow, somewhat)

  • He almost screamed. ummm…. did he or didn’t he?
  • She kind of wanted to go get her hair cut a little bit and probably would. Maybe she should make an appointment. 
  • She scanned the hairstyles and made a choice as she called for an appointment. 

These words force you to tell vs show. They are self explanatory, allow the reader to think for himself and become more involved in the story. (appeared, decided, felt, heard, knew, pondered, realized, seemed, thought, understood, wondered)

  • Susie appeared to be upset when she got home from school. 
  • Susie kicked the chair and threw her backpack on the table. 
  • Bob decided to take the bridge across the river when he realized it was dangerous. 
  • A swift current and swirling water encouraged Bob to use the bridge.

Use strong nouns and verbs instead of overusing adjectives and adverbs by deleting -ly words.

Dialogue

Dialogue tags (asked, replied, said) slow the pace and distract readers. Keep them for the first couple sentences to establish the conversation, allowing the reader to follow along. Add action to show what’s happening and to form personality. 

  • “Put the couch over there,” said Donna.
  • “On the north or east wall,” asked John.
  • “Which way is north,” asked Donna.
  • “The wall with the window,” replied John. “Don’t you know your  directions?” asked John.
  • “I’m all turned around.” replied Donna
  • “Just put the darn thing over there,” said Donna
    • Converts to:
  • “Put the chair over there,” Donna said as she unpacked another box. 
  • John shifted the heavy weight, “On the north or east wall?”
  • She lifted her hair from her sweaty neck, “Which way is north?”
  • “The wall with the window, don’t you know your directions?”
  • “Just drop it.” Donna stomped to the kitchen for a cool drink. 

Passive Writing

Remove -ing words (which follow was and were) to make your passive sentences more active.

  • She was skipping down the street. 
  • She skipped down the street. 
  • They were driving east.
  • They drove east.

Eliminate these passive words (as much as possible).

  • am
  • are – aren’t
  • be – been – being
  • can – can’t
  • could – couldn’t
  • did – didn’t 
  • do – don’t – done – does
  • give
  • had – hadn’t
  • has – hasn’t
  • have – haven’t
  • I’ll – I’m – I’d – I’ve
  • is – isn’t
  • it’s
  • make
  • must
  • shall
  • should – shouldn’t
  • was – wasn’t
  • we’d
  • were – weren’t
  • would – wouldn’t – would’ve 

More Edits

Avoid clichés.

Resist the urge to tell, show instead. (it’s cold – she shivered)

Delete unnecessary scene setting, get on with the story. 

  • He walked through the open door and sat down in a chair.
  • He walked in and sat.

Delete redundancies. (she clapped her hands – he shrugged his shoulders) 

Avoid what’s not happening. (he didn’t respond, the room never quieted)

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“101 Ways to Improve Your Writing”

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