Sunday, February 10, 2013

Polish Your Writing - Avoid Redundancy

Once you have the basics down, its time to focus on polishing your writing. Neglecting the smaller details, can make one's writing seem amateurish. One important thing to watch out for is redundancy. You'll see it all the time in newspapers and student essays, especially when using quotes.

Example:

The chair of the fundraising committee says she's excited about next week's event.

"I'm super excited about next week's event," said Stacey Stoked.

The sentence introducing the quote should have something to say about what's in the quote, but shouldn't just be a paraphrase.

Example:

The chair of the fundraising committee says she's excited about next week's event.

"Everything is going to be fantastic - the music, the dancing the comedy act. I can't wait," said Stacey Stoked.

Redundancy often shows up when similar words with the same meaning show up in the same sentence.

Example:

This cleaning feature allows the mechanic to reuse the filter again.

Sometimes, as in a list, a writer will deliberately reuse words with similar meaning for emphasis.

Example:

The criminal was callous, cold-hearted and unfeeling.

However, you have to a pretty good writer to avoid the pitfalls of this technique. The reader might assume you don't have much else to say on the subject, that you're being hyperbolic or that you just haven't figured out that the words you are using all mean the same thing.

One final problem, which is surprisingly common despite how easily it can be spotted, is using the exact same word over and over in a paragraph.

Example:

The burglar quietly entered the house through the back door. He quietly crept up the stairs. He quietly opened the door to the room where the man was sleeping.

You get the picture. Most instances aren't that obvious, but you can clear up repetition by giving your writing a quick read over.

Although many people would suggest reading your work aloud, this is rarely practical. Pronounce each word in your head as you read your final draft. You'll catch the errors you miss by scanning.

Pay particular attention to the quotes and paraphrases of your interview subjects. Avoid using repetition simply to pad a weak story. If your story doesn't quite reach the minimum word count, check your notes. Perhaps there was another angle you could have explored. Maybe there's another issue you avoided raising due to the complexity, but could be worth a second look. Or, it's possible that there just isn't enough meat in this story for the reader.

While most writers have competent editors to help them revise their work, in this era of internet self-publishing, it pays to develop the skills to become your own editor.

No comments:

Post a Comment