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Are You Confusing Readers? via Janalyn Voigt | Live Write Breathe

Are You Confusing Readers?

Wordiness, Causes and Cures by Janalyn Voigt for Live Write Breathe

I once kept this quote near my writing desk to help me overcome wordiness. Clarity is essential in writing, where communicating through body language isn’t an option. Wordiness muddles your manuscript and  confuses readers.

Using filler words, passive voice, redundancy, run-on sentences, negative constructions, unnecessary sentence beginnings, and over-reliance on adverbs and adjectives contributes to wordiness.

Filler Words

These party-crashers masquerade as invited guests in your sentences. Examples include that, just, really, very, literally, and simply. You can omit a filler word without changing the meaning of your sentence.

Passive Voice

Casting a sentence in active voice expresses its idea with more clarity.

Redundancy

Words that say the same thing, like ‘completely finished,’ slow pacing without adding anything to a story. Duplicating information,  except as a quick reminder later in the story, is another kind of redundancy.

Run-on Sentences

Asking readers to hold onto more than one thought at a time increases the chances of confusing them. Where possible, it’s best to break a long sentence in two.

Negative Sentences

Inserting the word, ‘not,’ in a sentence can add words. Casting a sentence from a positive angle makes it less convoluted. Here’s an example:

  • I would rather not go with you.
  • I would rather stay home.

Unnecessary Sentence Beginnings

Adding an extra phrase or clause at the beginning of your sentence can be a literary form of throat clearing. in the wordiness example, below, I demonstrate how recasting fixes this.  Other examples, from my own hit-list:

  • However
  • In actual truth
  • In point of fact
  • I think that

Over-Reliance on Adverbs and Adjectives

I happen to love adverbs and adjectives, but in their place, which is not front and center.  A strong verb or noun often needs no modifying.

Wordiness Example

The first paragraph of this post looked a little different before editing. I lined through the words I removed and put parentheses around the ones I added.

For many years, I (once) kept a copy of this quote near my writing desk to help me overcome wordiness in my writing. Clarity is essential in any form of communication but particularly in writing, where (communicating) the use of through body language isn’t an option. Wordiness contributes to reader confusion muddles your manuscript and  confuses readers.

Some Final Thoughts

Clarity in a manuscript is important but please don’t become so slash-happy while editing that you remove all personality. Trust your instincts and make the decisions that are best for your story.

Are You Confusing Readers? via @JanalynVoigt | Live Write Breathe

Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

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