Kamikaze Editing

In giving my manuscripts their yearly tune-up, I discovered that I use and overuse many unnecessary words, such as little, somewhat, rather, quite, very. A little noisy, somewhat noisy, rather noisy, quite noisy, very noisy. In each case, the modifier blurs the word noisy, rendering it almost meaningless. (Almost is another word I use too much.) So I went on a search and destroy mission to sharpen my prose.

I know I overuse only and just, but I hadn’t realized just how often I use them. They should only be used a few times, just to give emphasis, and only when needed. I ended up deleting about a hundred justs and onlys, though I kept almost as many because I couldn’t figure out how to say what I wanted without them.

Another word I overuse is up: he washed up, stood up, raised up. Also down: sat down, crouched down, squatted down. At least those were easy to get rid of, a quick click of the delete key and poof. No ups and downs. Just cleaner prose.

And then there are all those adverbs I really use too often that add practically nothing, particularly when they are basically used to modify verbs that hardly need modifying. Yep: practically, particularly, basically, extremely, hardly, really all have to go. I’m also overfond of barely, but I could barely stand to part with all of them so they still litter my prose. But just barely.

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