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Self Editing 101 – Weeding out Redundancies in Writing

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Apr• 26•11

Redundancies in writing is a problem easily overlooked.

Whether you’re a blogger, freelance writer, or book author, being proficient at self editing is required if you expect your work to be taken seriously. In this article, we’ll look at one of the most common challenges – searching and destroying redundancies in writing.

Self editing to remove redundancies in writing.

Repetition annoys us. It’s part of human nature. Have you ever been in the room with a pen clicker. Click, click, click, redundancies in writingclick, click – are you getting annoyed yet? The first few clicks hardly penetrate our ears, but the longer it goes on, the louder it seems. Soon we find ourselves fighting the urge to snatch it out of their hand and fling the pen across the room. The same holds true for finger drumming, chewing gum, and any other repetitious noise.

What about words? If you’ve ever been in a car with children, you probably recognize the phrase, “Are we there yet?” Or, “How much farther?” Once or twice – fine. But every five minutes will drive you crazy.

And then there’s the ‘ya knows’. Someone tries to tell a story and says something like, “We went to a great concert, you know. And there was this awesome fiddle player, you know. She darted around the stage, you know, and you know…”

A great story is buried behind annoying repetitions. The same holds true for redundancies in writing. Just like the person who keeps saying ‘you know’, we have our repetitious tendencies hidden in our own subconscious. Readers become mentally taxed when the same words or phrases appear in close succession. Readers may not even realize why they are getting annoyed until the repeated words show up enough to stand out in their conscious mind. Sadly, the story ceases to be enjoyable long before the cause can be identified. The problem could be the same or similar words used too close together. Look at this example.

Lilly finished pumping her gas and looked toward the long, barren road. With dread she whispered to herself, “Well, it’s time to get on the road.”

If you’re like me, when you begin the editing process, you’ll find many redundancies in writing throughout your manuscript. The challenge for writers is to find new ways to say the same thing. Maybe the first line in the example above could be changed to something like, “She looked down the endless pavement ahead of her.” Then she could whisper her statement without using the same word. There are many ways to reword, but the point is to keep the text sounding fresh.

Avoid repetition in all its forms. Don’t have a character think something like, Oh great, or I can’t believe this, many times in the story. Readers will begin asking, “Didn’t he/she already say this several times?”

Squash that. Do a word search on ‘that’, ‘as’, ‘were’, and other common words. To me, the word ‘that’ just sounds right. “He said that he is coming,” is probably something I would say, but it clutters writing. “He said he is coming,” is sharper and eliminates the excessively used word. However, don’t turn guidelines into rules. Some say you should never use ‘that’. Not true. When a sentence doesn’t make sense without it, either rewrite the sentence so it’s not needed, or leave it in.

A helpful tool to identify redundancies in writing

A handy tool to identify your tendencies is http://www.wordcounter.com. Scanning this article produced the following results:

Word  | Frequency

word      9
click       6
say         6
same     5
story     4
something 4
annoy  4
many   3

This can help you identify potential problem words. At times, you may want to use a word and the repetition is intentional. Just watch to insure you aren’t taking readers out of your story by driving them crazy. The subconscious is tricky. It picks up on subtle things that aren’t readily apparent. It might be that they put down your book without even knowing why they didn’t enjoy it.

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