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.

What’s Important in Writing Short Stories

image by Ramdlon

What’s Important to Consider in Writing a Short Story?


Writer’s Voice

  • Establish a strong, yet controlled, voice from the first line.


  • Limit the length of days or weeks the story covers.
  • Research to find (or create) a distinct setting that supports the story’s tone and plot. Your setting research should color your story rather than drive the story.
  • Show the setting through characters’ actions. No word-gobbling descriptions.


image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
  • Present an innovative and unexpected plot. Thoroughly imagine the whole story from beginning to end.
  • Know more about your story than your readers need to know so you can write a well-developed plot. The plot must have a beginning, middle, and end, but tell only enough of what you know to take the reader on a riveting short journey.
  • Focus on one conflict but make room for a small subplot to give the story some complexity and authenticity.
  • Don’t make the ending twist be your goal. The story must be about more than a gotcha.
  • Don’t set your story too far back in the protagonist’s life. Start after his life struggles heat up and as close to the climax as possible—when he takes a significant action toward his goal. Then advance to the conflict that creates the first obstacle to his goal. Conflicts leading to choices that lead to more conflict heighten emotional tension.
  • Infuse suspense so the reader constantly wants to know what happens next. Suspense is more than scary stuff happening.


  • Introduce few characters and write from one character’s point of view. Your protagonist should be the one who makes choices and advances the story.
  • image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
    Let the reader know immediately what the protagonist wants. Make her desire fresh.
  • Develop your characters through actions, thoughts, and dialogue. Every line of dialogue must develop a character or advance the plot. No idle talk.


  • Create dynamic, authentic interaction between characters through their complex personalities. Your goal is to create memorable characters.

 Good Planning and Execution

  • Brainstorm an original title that compels readers to delve into the story.
  • Rein in the exposition and the backstory.
  • Make beginning and ending lines the strongest in your story. Usher the reader into the story with a surprise that indicates what the whole story’s about, and like a spell, beckons him to read on. Don’t drag the ending out. When the reader reaches the ending line, he must care about the protagonist’s choice and can’t stop thinking about the story—wanting more. Perhaps he sees something about the world differently.
  • Don’t detail characters’ movements or getting them from one place to another; use quick transition words (later).
  • Edit the story to be shorter, tighter, more compelling. Pay attention to language—to word choices and clarity. Eliminate redundancy and repetition.
  • Kill your darlings. Every sentence should develop a character, advance the plot, or be eliminated.
  • Remember, conciseness doesn’t mean resorting to telling rather than showing feelings.

Find out what’s important in writing short stories. Click to tweet.

What do you want from a short story?