A Step in the Write Direction
March 31, 2014
Update: Our missionary speaker at church yesterday used a term that described how I’ve been feeling lately: “holy unrest.” Do you ever get hungry for something more—a closer walk with God, a burden for unsaved loved ones, to see a real revival break out in our church and in our country? He said a mail carrier, discovering he was a pastor, asked him, “How are things in your little church?” He replied that it wasn’t a little church; it was one of the largest in town. Then the carrier said, “No, I mean your ‘little’ church, your home? How is it with your family?” The speaker then said yesterday, “We won’t have change in our ‘big’ church until we experience a change in our ‘little’ church.” Good thought! Perhaps something we write today can help make a change in someone’s life!
Thought for Today: “God is at his best when our life is at its worst” (Max Lucado).
Writer’s Tips: Avoid Wordiness
Weak: Bob went to his car, opened the door, and sat down behind the wheel. Closing the door, he fastened his seat belt, then he adjusted his rearview mirror, and looked in his glove compartment for his sunglasses. Finally finding them, he took a tissue from the cup holder and cleaned the glasses. Then he put the car in gear and backed out of the driveway. Reaching the end of the driveway, he looked to the right and to the left, before heading east down the street. Reaching the corner, he stopped at the stop sign. Seeing no one coming, he continued on his way. After stopping at several traffic lights, he finally arrived at the restaurant where he was to meet his client for lunch.
Better: John pulled out of the driveway, and ten minutes later he arrived at the restaurant where he found his client waiting.
I’ve chosen some samples of wordiness from manuscripts I edited. They are used with the permission of the authors.
Wordy: He did not take the time to file a flight plan, which he usually did just before take-off.”
Better: He did not take the time to file his usual flight plan.
Wordy: “She invited ______ to be seated, then she set the table and placed two mugs of water into her microwave oven, preparatory to brewing tea. When the water was sufficiently hot, she inserted a tea bag in each mug and closed the door while the tea steeped.”
Better: “She invited _______ to be seated, then she prepared two cups of tea.” How much does your reader need to know?
Wordy: “She raised her hand and stiffened her finger that was shaking and pointing to a crude sign nailed to the top of a cross.”
Better: “She pointed a shaky finger to a crude sign nailed to the top of a cross.”
One of the best ways to improve on wordiness is to enter contests in which the entry has to be 50 words or less. You discover how many words are absolutely unnecessary.
Sometimes when I typed term papers for students (before computers!), I’d end up with one word to go onto the next page. In most cases, it was simple to omit a word without changing the meaning. However, while typing a book for a friend, this was not the case. She had written so tightly that not one word could be removed without changing the context. Strong writing, indeed.
Have a good week spreading the
gospel through the printed page.
Donna Clark Goodrich
"A Step in the Write Direction--the Complete How-to Guide for Christian Writers"