Excellent example of irony: The best way to up your writing game? Boil it down.
You’ve probably come across the KISS acronym at some point: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
While I realize it ruins the acronym, my inner editor can’t help but want to lop off the “Stupid” – it’s unnecessary and, frankly, insulting.
But I digress.
And I agree – with the adage, if not the acronym. Keepin’ it simple is the way to write.
So here are four easy ways to pare. it. down.
1. Delete unnecessary “that”s.
“That” should refer to an aforementioned noun, or connect a modifying clause to a main clause. Otherwise, it’s unnecessary. Watch for “that”s that can be eliminated without changing the meaning of your sentence, and use that delete key!
:: Useful “that”:
That’s what I’m talking about.
She wanted to borrow the book that changed my life.
:: Useless “that”:
I hope that you’re well and happy. [game upped: I hope you’re well and happy.] Don’t forget that I love you. [game upped: Don’t forget, I love you.]
2. Use nickel words.
Keep it simple vocabulary-wise. Try to use words with fewer syllables, fewer letters and clear meanings. Write for a fifth-grader [we all know you’re smarter than him; no need to prove it with dollar words].
3. Mercilessly replace adverbs.
I’m as guilty as the next scribe: adverbs are overused. The key to expressive writing without all the adverbage is to try to replace as many adverbs as possible with stronger, more descriptive verbs. Examples:
She ate daintily. = She nibbled.
She walked briskly. = She strode.
She spoke harshly. = She scolded.
4. Return to noun => verb => direct object.
Keep it simple structure-wise. Whenever I find myself getting bogged down in a sentence, paragraph or piece – feeling like I’ve gone down a writerly rabbithole and can’t find my way back – this is my go-to mantra: Noun. Verb. Direct Object. What am I writing about? What is it doing? What else is necessary? Forget about modifying – distill, distill, distill.
e.g., I’m posting this now. I hope it helps!