Five things to cut from your writing right now
My esteemed colleague Peter Harris recently wrote about how writing is one skill that can get you hired faster, promoted first, and paid more.
He pointed out that the ability to write is one of the 10 most in-demand skills employers search for in resumes, as well as the fact that there’s a lot of writing involved in the job search – your online profile, your cover letter, your resume, email queries – all are written.
Writing is also a useful skill in your day to day work life, even if writing isn’t technically part of your job. A study by Grammarly found that better writers make more money across industries – notably in the fields of engineering and manufacturing, legal, sales and marketing.
We’ve talked at length in previous articles about how typos* and spelling errors can sink you, as well as addressed myriad grammar issues. But we’re not done. We want you to be better writers, so here are five things that you should remove from your writing to immediately improve it.
An interesting starting note: I just read an article on 10 words to cut from your writing on Entrepreneur.com, and while I agree with a few of their arguments, I disagree with the majority of the article and think there is plenty of room for almost all the words on the list, including “just,” “amazing,” “quite” and “things.”
On that note, here are 10 things to cut from your writing.
Adverbs: Obviously it’s not that you should never use adverbs, but they are really massively overused in writing. Case in point: that sentence have been better if I’d written, “It’s not that you should never use adverbs, but they are overused in writing,” don’t you agree? Whenever I’m editing my own work, I find more than one “really,” “totally,” or “obviously” that has weakened the writing. Not everything needs to be qualified, and often, there is one word that will better replace the two you’ve used. If something is “extremely important,” perhaps it is “imperative.” Go through your writing and ask yourself if all your adverbs are necessary. If not, get rid of them.
Exclamation marks: What is wrong with everyone these days!!!! People throw exclamation marks into everything! In the wrong place!!! And as the wrong punctuation!!!! All the time!!! You don’t need them!!! Almost ever! STOP IT!!!! This means you!!!!!!!!!!
Caps: WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT, YOU MIGHT HAVE NOTICED A GROWING OVERUSE OF CAPS IN WRITING. IT’S A LAZY WAY TO CONVEY EMPHASIS. While people are less likely to use all caps in more formal communication, they still MIGHT throw in the odd all caps word when trying to make a point. I’M NOT BLAMELESS. I THINK MANY OF US ARE A LITTLE GUILTY. BUT I ALSO THINK IT’S TIME TO LAY OFF THE ALL CAPS LOCK AND TRY TO EXPRESS YOUR EMPHASIS IN ANOTHER MANNER.
Clichés: I know it seems like I have an axe to grind but you should hop on this bandwagon and avoid clichés like the plague. Just give them up cold turkey, and say “It will be a cold day in hell before I use another cliché.” Give it the good old college try at least, and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
I should clarify that there appear to be those who would classify every saying ever coined as a cliché. That’s ridiculous. There’s always room for a well-placed adage. Have the wisdom to know the difference.
That: It’s not that you should never use that, it’s that often there are those that use it when it is unnecessary. I think that those people need to be told that, often, when you remove “that” from a sentence – sometimes completely, other times replacing “that” with something else – you will find that that sentence becomes stronger.
Literally: We’re back to adverbs here, but this one needs a section of its own. There is a rampant problem lately of people using the word “literally” as yet another method of adding emphasis (sometimes you get both Caps Lock and literally). You’re not literally going to rip your own face off if you hear that song from “Frozen” one more time (I AM LITERALLY GOING TO RIP MY FACE OFF!!!), any more than you’re literally dying laughing at that joke someone just told you. You are figuratively going to rip your face off and figuratively dying. Stop using “literally” when you mean “figuratively.” It literally drives me crazy. Wait … no it doesn’t.
What do you wish people would cut from their writing? Spill it.
*There will be at least one typo in this article, because it is the rule of the universe that when you are writing about writing, you will make an error, so that readers can point to it as though it is the GREAT IRONY OF THE DECADE!!! Know that every writer knows this and accepts it.