That sounds right

Subtle redundancies can clunk up writing and add unnecessary and unwanted words. As a wordy writer, I need to be aware of this since I’m constantly battling to hack out extra words. By removing simple words that were already explained in an obvious manner, the sentence can transform from clumsy to graceful.

“That sounds right.” He nodded his head agreeing with her. (10)
Those last five words can be removed. Nodding already tells us that he’s in agreement. Explaining the action is redundant.
“That sounds right.” He nodded. (5)

“Sure, why not.” He shrugged his shoulders. (7)
Unless someone has figured out how to shrug their buttocks or their lips, it’s safe to say shoulders are implied.
“Sure, why not?” He shrugged. (5)
I might even swap that around depending on the character.
He shrugged. “Sure why not?” (5)

The ball went into the net; they stood up and clapped their hands. (13)
I don’t recall anyone ever clapping their feet or elbows so that can go. Also with the up, standing implies up so…
The ball went into the net; they stood and clapped. (10) 
They stood and clapped when the ball went into the net. (11)

“Why?” He blinked his eyes at her. (7)
There is only one body part that blinks, well two if you want to be technical and if the character has both eyes and isn’t a cyclops or spider hybrid.  ::;)
“Why?” He blinked at her.  (5)
It’s pretty obvious what blink, blinking, or blinked means. You could even go so far as to say:
“Why?” He blinked. (3)

She heard the sound of a siren in the distance. (10)
‘Sound of’ could be deleted, obviously the word heard suggested a sound long before the word sound crashed the party.
She heard a siren in the distance. (7)
You could even say this instead.
A siren was heard in the distance. (7)

She looked him over from head to toe and licked her lips.  (12)
Well she didn’t lick her nose or her eyeball. However, I would leave this one alone because ‘She licked’ is incomplete and could lead the reader to any number of inappropriate conclusions. Common sense here.
She looked him over from head to toe and licked.  (10)
See? Oh boy what did she lick?  Yeah not everything obvious is redundant make sure it makes sense and its what you meant to say.

My point is that I do this all the time, I’m sure that others do as well. It might not be a huge deal, but it might make the difference between your writing looking like amateur hour or a well-revised piece of art.

My advice about redundancies.
Edit them out if you can. If you can’t or don’t have the patience or time, get someone else to proof or hire an editor if need be.


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8 thoughts on “That sounds right

  1. Oh, this reminds me of a mentor I had; she was a great editor and a sensible grandmother-figure to a lot of us. ‘That’s tautology,’ she’d say, and leave the poor writers scratching their heads because now they needed a dictionary to figure out what she was telling them!


  2. Hey Sheryl!
    I’m thoroughly enjoying catching up on all of your posts. For starters, congratulations on writing your book! What a wonderful accomplishment, and even more so, what a journey of learning and growth. As a writer who struggles with being overly wordy more often than not, I’m really appreciating your tips regarding cutting out the words that you so aptly say “clunk up” our work. And as a newbie blogger, I also appreciate all of the effort you’ve put into this forum. Way to go! I’ll continue to look forward to your posts and updates 🙂


    • Thanks Julie, what nice things to say. It is quite the journey. My allocated time for blogging is shrinking while my final revision takes president. I share what I’ve learned and done so that hopefully others can see that it’s possible if you try. 🙂


  3. Sometimes I like to pack a lot into my sentences and always keep two maxims in my mind while writing: Orwell’s ‘never use a big word when a short one will do’, and E.B. White’s ‘omit needless words’, although it normally takes a few re-drafts before I’m able to achieve both. It made a nice change when I deliberately broke these rules in my recent parody piece. Great advice as always 🙂


  4. Pingback: Sound and selfish advice | I wrote a book. Now what?

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