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How to Kill a Word (2018)

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What you need to know about killing words for clarity, power and brevity.

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How to Kill a Word (2018)

  1. 1. by Patrick E. McLean How to KillA Word patrickemclean.com
  2. 2. How to KillA Word by Patrick E. McLean patrickemclean.com
  3. 3. How to KillA Word by Patrick E. McLean patrickemclean.com
  4. 4. Ernest Hemingway, editing in Cuba circa 1940.
  5. 5. The first draft of anything is shit. “ ” Ernest Hemingway
  6. 6. Mark Twain If you catch an adjective, kill it.” “
  7. 7. Mark Twain If you catch an adjective, kill it.” “ Revising down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” “ Stephen King
  8. 8. Why do all these writers hate words so much?
  9. 9. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” The business of writing, rightly understood, is largely a matter of killing words.
  10. 10. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” The business of writing, rightly understood, is largely a matter of killing words.
  11. 11. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” The business of writing, rightly understood, is largely a matter of killing words.
  12. 12. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” It’s a sad fact of modern existence that nobody has enough attention. In fact, some thought leaders are referring to this as the age of distraction.
  13. 13. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” It’s a sad fact of modern existence that nobody has enough attention. In fact, some thought leaders are referring to this as the age of distraction.
  14. 14. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” It’s a sad fact of modern existence that nobody has enough attention. In fact, some thought leaders are referring to this as the age of distraction.
  15. 15. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” Each additional word you use demands more of a reader’s attention. While transitions and style tricks are often nice, they involve a ruthless and unforgiving trade-off. Beyond a point, additional words make it harder to get to your point. Assuming you have one to begin with.
  16. 16. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” Each additional word you use demands more of a reader’s attention. While transitions and style tricks are often nice, they involve a ruthless and unforgiving trade-off. Beyond a point, additional words make it harder to get to your point. Assuming you have one to begin with.
  17. 17. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” Each additional word you use demands more of a reader’s attention. While transitions and style tricks are often nice, they involve a ruthless and unforgiving trade-off. Beyond a point, additional words make it harder to get to your point. Assuming you have one to begin with.
  18. 18. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” Each additional word you use demands more of a reader’s attention. While transitions and style tricks are often nice, they involve a ruthless and unforgiving trade-off. Beyond a point, additional get to your point. Assuming you have one to begin with.
  19. 19. I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means. Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins
  20. 20. If you are writing anything other than poetry...
  21. 21. I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means. Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins
  22. 22. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
  23. 23. When you edit, you want to interrogate each word.
  24. 24. When you edit, you want to interrogate each word.
  25. 25. When you edit, you want to interrogate each word.
  26. 26. If you find one that is unclear, mumbles, or otherwise doesn’t have its story straight...
  27. 27. If you find one that is unclear, mumbles, or otherwise doesn’t have its story straight...
  28. 28. If you find one that is unclear,
  29. 29. Delete it with extreme prejudice.
  30. 30. Delete it with extreme prejudice.
  31. 31. Delete it without further ado.
  32. 32. Delete it without further ado.
  33. 33. Kill it.
  34. 34. Like this:
  35. 35. However, some chairs are more comfortable than others. In fact, some chairs are downright uncomfortable. Some have itchy fabrics, uncomfortable seat bottoms, and awkward side arms. They can be excessively big or obnoxiously small.
  36. 36. However, some chairs are more comfortable than others. In fact, some chairs are downright uncomfortable. Some have itchy fabrics, uncomfortable seat bottoms, and awkward side arms. They can be excessively big or obnoxiously small.
  37. 37. However, some chairs are more comfortable than others. In fact, some chairs are downright uncomfortable. Some have itchy fabrics, uncomfortable seat bottoms, and awkward side arms. They can be excessively big or obnoxiously small.
  38. 38. Some chairs are downright uncomfortable. They can have itchy fabric, uncomfortable seat bottoms or awkward side arms. They can be too big or too small.
  39. 39. That’s still not great prose. But it’s stronger, faster, better.
  40. 40. That’s still not great prose. But it’s stronger, faster, better.
  41. 41. That’s still not great prose. But it’s stronger, faster, better.
  42. 42. There is much conversation in dog circles about why the American Pit Bull Terrier is only recognized by the United Kennel Club and not the AKC and why some dogs are dual registered in both kennel clubs.
  43. 43. There is much conversation in dog circles about why the American Pit Bull Terrier is only recognized by the United Kennel Club and not the AKC and why some dogs are dual registered in both kennel clubs.
  44. 44. There is much conversation in dog circles about why the American Pit Bull Terrier is only recognized by the United Kennel Club and not the AKC and why some dogs are dual registered in both kennel clubs.
  45. 45. Why is the American Pit Bull Terrier recognized by the United Kennel Club but not the American Kennel Club?
  46. 46. Any other questions or nuances of breed classification go in additional sentences. This question seems to be a better way to begin the paragraph.
  47. 47. Any other questions or nuances of breed classification go in additional sentences. This question seems to be a better way to begin the paragraph.
  48. 48. Any other questions or nuances of breed classification go in additional sentences. This question seems to be a better way to begin the paragraph.
  49. 49. Any other questions or nuances of breed classification go in additional sentences. This question is seems to be a better way to begin the paragraph.
  50. 50. When looking at your model week and your sales process, you have to ask yourself how that activity is going to contribute to bringing you closer to your goals. A good sales manager would keep you from rationalizing. They would keep you honest and prevent you from putting more emphasis on activities that you like over activities that actually generate the right outcomes.
  51. 51. When looking at your model week and your sales process, you have to ask yourself how that activity is going to contribute to bringing you closer to your goals. A good sales manager would keep you from rationalizing. They would keep you honest and prevent you from putting more emphasis on activities that you like over activities that actually generate the right outcomes.
  52. 52. When looking at your model week and your sales process, you have to ask yourself how that activity is going to contribute to bringing you closer to your goals. A good sales manager would keep you from rationalizing. They would keep you honest and prevent you from putting more emphasis on activities that you like over activities that actually generate the right outcomes.
  53. 53. Still too damn long.
  54. 54. Still too damn long.
  55. 55. Still too damn long.
  56. 56. Still too damn long.
  57. 57. Still too damn long. Still too (I’ll keep working.) long.
  58. 58. When looking at your model week and your sales process, you have to ask yourself how that activity is going to contribute to bringing you closer to your goals. A good sales manager would keep you from rationalizing. They would keep you honest and prevent you from putting more emphasis on activities that you like over activities that actually generate the right outcomes.
  59. 59. When looking at your model week and your sales process, you have to ask yourself how each activity will contribute to move you closer to your goals. A good sales manager would keep you from rationalizing. They would keep you honest and prevent you from wasting time on activities that won’t get you where you need to go.
  60. 60. When looking at your model week, ask how each activity will move you closer to your goals. A good sales manager would prevent you from wasting time on activities that won’t get you where you need to go.
  61. 61. And there’s still more that could be done.
  62. 62. And there’s still more that could be done.
  63. 63. And there’s still more that could be done.
  64. 64. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.”It’s not always so complicated.
  65. 65. You can instantly and dramatically improve your blog writing skills and immediately explode your profits and skyrocket your online success by following the spectacular, simple, and practical tips found in this groundbreaking new free blog post.
  66. 66. You can instantly and dramatically improve your blog writing skills and immediately explode your profits and skyrocket your online success by following the spectacular, simple, and practical tips found in this groundbreaking new free blog post.
  67. 67. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.”
  68. 68. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.”Sometimes you get to kill all the words.
  69. 69. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” :-)
  70. 70. “If you catch an adjective, kill it.” How to Start the Slaughter 1. Read it out loud. 2. Cross out all the adjectives and adverbs. 3. Read it out loud again. 4. Rewrite so it makes sense.
  71. 71. I am more suspicious of adjectives than at any other time in all my born days.” Carl Sandburg, aged 81 “
  72. 72. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. Omit Needless Words William Strunk and E.B. White
  73. 73. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. Omit Needless Words William Strunk and E.B. White
  74. 74. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. Omit Needless Words William Strunk and E.B. White
  75. 75. There’s no sentence that’s too short in the eyes of God.” William Zinnser “
  76. 76. Be precise in use of words, and expect precision of others. Watch for error, even in Holy Scripture” Pierre Abelard “
  77. 77. If you really liked this, you can find the free “How to Kill a Word” course at http:// www.patrickemclean.com/ how-to-kill-a-word/
  78. 78. If you really liked this, you can find the free “How to Kill a Word” course at http:// www.patrickemclean.com/ how-to-kill-a-word/
  79. 79. If you really liked this, you can find the free “How to Kill a Word” course at http:// www.patrickemclean.com/ how-to-kill-a-word/
  80. 80. If you really liked this, you can Free “How to Kill a Word” course: patrickemclean.com/how-to- kill-a-word/
  81. 81. This work made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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