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Tips to Stop Overwriting

I’m by no means a professional writer, but what I am is a chronic over-writer whose passed many word limits. There are many reasons for that, but mostly, I just forget to trust the reader. Whether it’s an English essay or short story, I can never edit down because I worry the reader will miss something. Writing is all about clarity, so it’s natural to worry about a point not coming across. However, sometimes the best thing to do is let go, trust the reader to understand, and not over-do it. Here are a couple of tips to help edit and tailor whatever it is you are writing. 

Read it aloud!

Usually the parts that need to be taken out are the parts that are hard to read out loud. These sentences throw the fluidity off and sound awkward. You’ll know it when you hear it.​

Get some peer edits!

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Sometimes you can only take your own work so far. A fresh perspective is a must.

Leave it unspoken!

This is more for creative writing and creating plot points. Most of the time, leaving things unspoken for the reader to discover can be more engaging than laying it on too thick. So look back and see where things become too obvious or drag on. You might want to cut back for an added element of mystery.

Listen to Stephen King!

King wrote a memoir, On Writing, that has great tips to avoid over-writing. His two essential points are: avoid a passive voice and don’t use too many ‘ly’ words (i.e. spectacularly, vigorously) If you’re using a lot of these, you might want to edit them out.

So those are my two cents on how to avoid over-writing. Ultimately though, practice makes perfect (a cliché, I know, but it’s said for a reason). So go out and edit! Give these tips a try and hopefully we can all learn to trust the reader more.

[Feature image by Unsplash]

Isabelle Fang

New School '21

Isabelle is a Literary Studies major at the Eugene Lang School of Liberal Arts at The New School. Originally from Toronto, she's still working on using the imperial system and reading weather forecasts in Fahrenheit. Isabelle mostly writes about pop culture, Asian American representation, and profiles on all kinds of people.
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