After you check your spelling, check for weak words. Remove as many as possible.
Some weak words you can simply cut. For others you will have to put what you say into everyday terms that your readers can picture.
Some of the weakest of the weak words:
- not – it is better to say what is than what is not. Put your statements in the positive. Even words like “never” or “nothing” are better than “not”. “Not” is fine when stating the contrary: “I like Paris, not France.”
- use – its meaning is too general. Find a verb that shows us what is happening.
Not: “He used a knife to kill him”
But: “He knifed him and he dropped.”
- all – cut it where you can. Overused.
- key, major, meaningful, important, significant – do not say that something is key, major, meaningful, important or significant. Show why it is so.
Not: “Barack Obama is an important political figure”,
But: “Barack Obama could become the next president.”
- individual, person, process, purpose, condition, community, relationship, environment, nature, character, resources, perception – these are words from Latin that stand for a general something. We like them because they sound important and save us the trouble of thinking out just what we mean in everyday terms.
Not: “There is a perception that the African-American community has fewer resources due to a process of discrimination in the workplace.”
But: “Some believe many blacks are poor because it is hard to find work when whites cannot see past skin colour.”
- problem, solution – overused and too general in their meaning to have much force. When Dorothy found herself in Oz and had to get home, did she call it a “problem”? When Glenda the Good Witch told her to follow the Yellow Brick Road, did she call it a “solution”?
- massive – massively overused.
- so, very, really, pretty – before an adjective, as in “really high”, “very high”, “pretty high”, “so high”, are overused and have no effect. They are better left out. In our example, if you want to make a point of how high something was, then show just how high it was:
Not: “We were very high”
But: “We looked down on the tree tops.”
- rather, quite, somewhat, definitely, actually, basically, tend to – these words show that you are uncertain about what you are saying. Why read on? If you cannot simply cut them, then find out the facts or write what you are sure about.
addressed, ailing, basis, bottom line, breakaway, care for, caring, crisis, exciting, famously, focus, guesstimate, hearts and minds, high profile, honeymoon is over, landmark, last-ditch, little, make-or-break, one thing is certain, overseas, partner, prestigious, respected, revolution, sea-change, skills, so-called, supportive, target, too close to call, watershed, windows of opportunity.