Fewer Words for Greater Impact

Cynthia Ruchti

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Fewer words for greater impact?

Those who write devotions are often held to a tough task–tell a complete story with a soul-stirring point and clear takeaway for the reader with a minimum of words.

too many wordsWhat a great exercise for serious writers.

If you’ve written 750 words today, see if you can whittle them down to 500 and still communicate everything that needs to be said with fewer words. Now try reducing the passage to 350 words. It can be done.

Strong writing isn’t weighed down by excess word-pounds. It is lean. Trim. Efficient.fewer words

Even literary writing–poetic, lyrical–isn’t measured by the length of words or sentences, but by beauty, by elegant use of language.

How many words is too many?

Any more than necessary. Editors improve our writing when they delete the unnecessary. Wise writers use fewer words. They don’t give editors reasons to delete.

  • He climbed up the stairs. (Delete “up.” If he’s climbing, we already know he’s headed up.)
  • With her hand in the air, she waved at the passing cars. (Delete “With her hand in the air,” since it’s understood that if she’s waving, her hand is in the air. BONUS: Delete “the” so it reads, “She waved at passing cars.” Note the improved rhythm of the sentence after “the” is discarded.
  • A bunch of goosebumps danced on top of the original set of goosebumps. She was scared. (Consider the impact of reducing this to “Goosebumps danced on goosebumps.” Removing “She was scared” gets rid of redundancy. We already know she’s scared. Hence, the goosebumps. “A bunch of” is no stronger than “Goosebumps,” since by nature goosebumps come in multiples. “On” is simpler than “on top of” and “original set of” is also unnecessary.)
  • Sweat drizzled down his spine and pooled in the folds of his neck. It was a hot day. (Resist the urge to explain, abbreviated to RUE. If you’ve shown the effects of the heat, you don’t need to also tell about the heat.)

Consider the impact of some of the most meaningful  “fewer words” verses from the Bible:

  • Jesus wept.
  • Come, follow Me.
  • It is finished.

In the comments section, free-write a sentence or two. Then show it rewritten, eliminating unnecessary words. What do you think? Stronger?

Once alerted to them, you’ll soon see excess words begging to be freed from the confines of your sentences.

CLICK TO TWEET: Are you holding unnecessary words hostage in your writing?

Agents Represent Authors

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I’m a literary agent.

I advocate for authors.

That’s my job, it’s what I choose to do, and I enjoy doing it. Every day I’m grateful for my partnership with talented writers. It’s my privilege to assist …

Read More