Squash These Wordy Phrases

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

Try this exercise and see if you can make the example below more concise by substituting a word for wordy phrases. Have fun.

Passage With Wordy Phrases

Greg went inside of the house. He didn’t know where Alice had gone to, but the fact of the matter was that he was unsure he wanted to marry her. He’d looked for every trace of dirt from her past, but he’d found only a couple of small infringements. From all of her stories about her past, she seemed true to her word, and a lot of the gossip about her had turned out to be untrue.

Under the circumstances in which he’d met her, he wasn’t cognizant of her doing anything wrong. But with her making use of his pin number for the ATM, it was time to make a change, especially since there was still time to make things right.

Maybe he’d choose one of the less expensive private eyes to look into a period of years in her past—if the research done by the private eye could be done in plenty of time to call off the wedding.

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

He walked to two feet past the other side of the sofa, then stopped and made a decision to break things off with her.

When the doorbell rang, he strode in the direction of the door. From the window of the living room, he saw a rent-a-truck. Curious, he opened the door. Alice stood on the other side of the threshold, looking angry. He wasn’t able to figure out why she was so mad or had driven a rent-a-truck.

She handed him his ATM card. “You don’t trust me. The wedding is off.”

Wordy Phrases

See what you can do with the following phrases to make the excerpt more concise.

  • inside of
  • gone to
  • the fact of the matter
  • for every trace of
  • a couple of
  • from all of
  • true to her word
  • A lot of
  • turned out to be
  • under the circumstances in which
  • wasn’t cognizant of
  • call off
  • with her making use of
  • for the ATM
  • it was time to make
  • there was still time
  • one of the
  • look into
  • a period of years in
  • done by
  • plenty of
  • to two feet past the other side of
  • made a decision
  • things off with
  • in the direction of
  • of the
  • on the other side of
  • looking angry
  • wasn’t able to
  • figure out
  • so mad

An Improved Passage

Greg went inside the house. He didn’t know where Alice had gone, but now he was unsure he wanted to marry her. He’d combed her past for dirt, but he’d found only two small infringements. From her stories about her past, she seemed honest, and much gossip about her proved untrue.

image by peltierclem

When he’d met her, he didn’t know she’d done anything wrong. But her using his ATM pin number forced him to reconsider, especially since he had time to make things right.

Maybe he’d choose an inexpensive private eye to investigate her past—if his research could be done in time to cancel the wedding.

He walked two feet past the sofa, then stopped and decided to end their relationship.

The doorbell rang. He strode toward the door. From the living room window, he saw a rent-a-truck. Curious, he opened the door. Alice stood on the porch scowling. He couldn’t understand why she was angry or had driven a rent-a-truck.

She handed him his ATM card. “You don’t trust me. The wedding is off.”

A short exercise to reduce wordy phrases. Click to tweet.

I invite you to include your rewrite in the comments.

 

Amazon Link

Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.

Don’t Detail Every Movement Your Story Characters Make

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Try this exercise and see if you can improve the example below that over details the movements of the characters. You’ll replace movements with fewer words or delete them. Have fun.

First, read the detailed paragraph.

The Passage Loaded With Details

Dan gripped the handles of the wheelbarrow full of seedlings, lifted them up, and pushed the wheelbarrow to the straw bale garden. Katherine plodded her feet behind him carrying a trowel in her left hand, wire cutters in her right hand, and a box of seed packets under one arm. They would plant in an hour what most farmers planted in a day. He’d prove to the local farmers he wasn’t crazy.

Katherine pinched the hook on the door between her thumb and forefinger and pulled it out of the eye on the jamb of their fenced enclosure. Once inside, they reached for their seedlings from the wheelbarrow and the seed packets from the box and set them at the base of the forty fertilized bales according to Dan’s planting diagram.

As Joe Brown passed in his truck, he shifted down the gears, stuck his arm out the window, and flapped his hand. “You think those hay bales will grow anything, Dan?”

Dan lifted his torso until his back was vertical. “Straw bales, Joe. Hay bales won’t work.”

Joe raised his thumb on his fist and his chin moved up and down as he laughed and drove on.

Dan poured a thin layer of potting mix from the bag onto the tops of the bales for the seeds and smoothed it out with his gloved hand. “We’ll never live this endeavor down if the seeds don’t sprout and the seedlings don’t bear vegetables.”

Problem Movements

Next, see what you can do with the following movements to make the excerpt more concise.

  • getting the wheelbarrow to the garden
  • Katherine’s walking
  • carrying items
  • opening the garden door
  • putting the seedlings and packets at the base of bales
  • slowing the truck
  • Joe waving
  • Dan straightening
  • Joe performing a thumbs up
  • Joe laughing
  • getting the potting mix on the bales

An Improved Passage

Dan maneuvered the wheelbarrow full of potted seedlings to the straw bale garden. Katherine strode behind him armed with a trowel, wire cutters, and a box of seed packets. They would plant in an hour what most farmers planted in a day. He’d prove to the local farmers he wasn’t crazy.

Katherine unhooked the door to their fenced enclosure. Once inside, they placed their seedlings and seed packets at the base of the forty fertilized bales according to Dan’s planting diagram.

As Joe Brown passed, he slowed his truck and waved. “You think those hay bales will grow anything, Dan?”

Dan straightened. “Straw bales, Joe. Hay bales won’t work.”

Joe gave him a thumbs up and guffawed as he drove on.

Dan spread a thin layer of potting mix on the tops of the bales to be seeded. “We’ll never live this endeavor down if the seeds don’t sprout and the seedlings don’t bear vegetables.”

A short exercise to make characters’ movements concise. Click to tweet.

I invite you to include your rewrite in the comments.

Amazon Link

Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.

Words & Phrases: Shun the Weak; Embrace the Strong

image by music4life

Try this exercise and see if you can improve the example below containing weak words and phrases. You’ll replace them with stronger words, cut wordiness, and add power words to spice up the piece. Have fun.

First, read the flavorless paragraph.

The Weak Passage

image by PublicDomainPictures

I went out on the balcony to get away from Edgar. On the next balcony over, Clare was up on a table and looked very much like she was ready to jump over the railing. Was she trying to get back at me for winning a fight with Edgar? I was really afraid that she’d make the leap before I could get from my place to her balcony. But I tried my best and got up on my railing. I almost lost my balance on the railing and fell myself. Finally, I jumped to her railing and then to the floor.

“What are you doing?” she asked. “You could have fallen.”

“I’m saving you,” I said.

“I’m just getting a better look at the view,” she said.

I couldn’t believe I’d been so tricked by appearances.

Problem Words and Phrases

Next, see what you can do with the following words and phrases to make the excerpt more interesting to the reader. Also, can you add some power verbs and nouns?

  • Balcony (repetitions)
  • railing (repetitions)
  • on the next balcony over
  • was up on a table
  • very much like
  • ready to jump over
  • trying to
  • get back at me
  • winning a fight
  • was really afraid that
  • make the leap
  • could get
  • my place
  • I tried my best
  • got up on
  • almost
  • fell myself
  • finally
  • jumped to
  • floor
  • said, asked, said
  • just getting a better look at
  • couldn’t believe
  • been so tricked by appearances

An Improved Passage

image by Pascal-Laurent

To escape know-it-all Edgar, I stepped onto my terrace. On the adjacent balcony, Clare stood on a table, poised to dive over the railing. Was this her revenge for the beating I’d given Eric?

Frantic she’d plunge to her death before I could race to the corridor and enter through her door, I perched on my banister like a raven. I teetered, planted a steadying hand on the stone wall, and pictured my bloody body flattened on the street. Gritting my teeth, I stretched one leg to her railing, shifted my weight, and hauled my other foot next to its mate. I dropped to her verandah.

Clare turned and faced me. “What are you doing? Your stunt was crazy and dangerous.”

Like a cat stalking its prey, I crept toward her. “I’m saving you.”

She swept her hand across the skyline. “I’m improving my vantage of the view, silly man.”

I collapsed into a patio chair. How stupid could I be?

A short exercise to improve a wordy passage that has weak words and phrases. Click to tweet.

I invite you to include your rewrite in the comments.

Amazon Link

Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.