Tighten Your Writing with Word Economy

by Eva Augustin Rumpf


When money is short, you may tighten your belt by cutting your budget to economize. Likewise, you can practice word economy by tightening your writing.

Word economy is essential in newspaper, magazine and newsletter writing, where space is limited. Editors must carefully plan each issue and set word limits. Exceed those limits, and you complicate the editor's task. Disregard those limits regularly, and you may lose assignments.

The best way to cut word count without sacrifiing content is to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases. Depending on how bloated your writing is, you could reduce word count by 10 percent or more with good editing.

After you've finished the first draft, switch to an editing mode. Look at the manuscript as though you've never seen it before and cut the fat.

Examine each word and phrase. Follow this maxim: Don't use several words when one will do the job. Can you name something with one word instead of two? Can you replace that five word phrase with two words?

To tighten your writing, eliminate these bloaters:

at no time – never
at this point in time – now
in the near future – soon
during the time that – while
once in a great while – seldom
called attention to the fact – reminded
came to a stop – stopped
draw to a close – end
called a meeting – met
due to the fact that – because
despite the fact that – although
on behalf of – for
in the event that – if
told his listeners that – said

When your manuscripts carry all that extra weight, communication slows down. Word economy makes writing leaner, more muscular, less encumbered. By learning to write tighter, you'll please editors, save them time, and find your manuscripts are edited less.

©copyright 2004 Eva Augustin Rumpf

This article previously appeared in Editor's Forum.

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