I despise weeds—especially the thorny spidery ones I can never pull out without leaving the dang root in the ground. I don’t know what they’re called (I call them all sorts of names in my head—devil weeds, sarlaac weeds—after that scary monster in Star Wars). Weeds make my yard look atrocious…and if you don’t fight them, they take over and eventually swallow your house and yard whole (like the Sarlaac)! Don’t underestimate them.
It’s the same with writing! Just like weeds clutter a yard, strangle grass and eventually take over the earth…so unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon clutter and strangle your writing.
The secret to good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components—WEED YOUR WORDS! Every word that serves no function—like those sarlaac weeds—every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—these are word weeds that weaken your writing. GET RID OF THEM!
Pull out the Roundup and spray away. Roundup in writing is called your delete and backspace keys. Use them a lot!
To write well, you must clear your head of clutter! Clear thinking becomes clear writing. You must constantly ask: what am I trying to say? Then look at what you’ve written and see if you’ve said it. It’s easy to get overcome by weeds if you don’t stay on top of them; but you can win the battle if you are valiant and watch carefully for the first signs of weeds in your writing—then use your trusty friend–BACKSPACE!
My grandma didn’t give weeds room to breathe…and her yard was heaven. Your writing can be a bit of heaven too…if you don’t let the weeds of hell take over! It’s not cussing if I use heaven and hell in the same sentence, is it? I hope not. My grandma couldn’t even spell cuss words aloud…they embarrassed her. That’s a good thing to do with writing. Get to where you can’t even think or write a word weed down without grimacing and slashing it out with the backspace key! Examine every word you put on paper. Spray Roundup on any that don’t serve a purpose. Annihilate them! This is WAR!
WORD WEED Identification Key:
- Made up words: Um, Erm, eh, uh, durrrh, arghp! (If you’re making sounds for your dog, these work well. If you’re writing a research paper…not so much!)
- Prepositions draped onto verbs that don’t need any help: Head up a committee (instead of head a committee); Face up to problems (instead of face problems)
- Long words that would be better as short ones: Assistance (help); Facilitate (ease); Numerous (many); Individual (man or woman)
- Redundant Phrases: End result; personal opinion; false pretense; Tall skyscraper; Short midget
- Weak Qualifiers: A bit; In a sense; Sort of; I might add
- Sentences which repeat what has already been said: Repeating something that you already know; Restating the same thing over and over; Giving a recap of what you just said the line before; Saying the same thing again, just in another way. Are you understanding what I’m saying yet?
Look for the weeds in your writing and apply Roundup ruthlessly. Reexamine each sentence and ask yourself if every word is working (if they’re not pulling their weight…fire them!) Can any thought be expressed more efficiently? Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it’s beautiful–like a dandelion? (Have you ever seen a lawn taken over by dandelions? It’s a sight to cause mourning.)
There is no better feeling than when you come off conqueror and your writing and yard are free of weeds! But, I warn you, weeds don’t give up! This is a battle you will fight your whole life—in your yard and in your writing! I’m sorry…but it’s true.
But chin up! Don’t give up! You can destroy the sarlaac weeds if you never forget that the FORCE is with those who work hard—who put forth the effort to keep their yards and sentences clutter free! May the Force be with you…and as Yoda might say: “Destroyed will weeds be.”
Yoda-Mom (that’s what my kids call me; it makes me feel invincible)