I like dandelions. While not lawn-care-kosher, the bees need them. Weeds? When did we decide that? In another lifetime, they could be wildflowers.
Over the years, my children and grandchildren and have brought me fistfuls of weeds. Weeds adorned with flowers. Those are love bouquets.
But other weeds are a downright nuisance. Stickers and beggar’s lice top my list, and I won’t tolerate them in our yard. Then if you bother to plant a vegetable garden, you’ll need to regularly weed it, or they will choke out the veggies. Otherwise, why garden?
In writing, weeds cause problems, too. Nobody wants to read “The man drove his ugly, sputtering, 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado eerily down the vacant, foreboding road toward the flaking, behemoth Victorian home.”
Instead, replace it with “The man’s jalopy sputtered toward the rundown mansion.”
Or even this: “There were four German shepherds waiting outside the vet’s door.” Instead, write “Four German shepherds waited outside the vet’s door.”
All those excessive adjectives and adverbs are weeds in your garden. Laborious reading. Tiresome. Confusing. Redundant.
Hence the numerous “rewrites” I hand to my students. Cut the fat. Trim it. Be your hardest critic. If they won’t, I will.
Furthermore, if you use vivid verbs, you don’t need to pad your writing. Use a thesaurus and a dictionary. One of my favorite tools, Banish Boring Words, is a required purchase for all my classes.
All those extra words, like packing peanuts, clutter your writing. Throw them out. Thoroughly weed your garden. It takes time to fine-tune one’s writing. So don’t be lazy.
Nit-pick every word and every sentence. No unnecessary words. No unnecessary sentences. Every word counts. Clear. Concise. Specific. Simple. Otherwise, no one will bother reading it. No one. Will. Bother. Reading. It.
As a wordsmith, I endeavor to pass on my high standards to my students. Inevitably, they’ll announce, “Mrs. White, I can no longer read certain authors’ books.”
“Why is that?” I ask (knowing full-well their answers).
“Boring verbs! Too wordy!”
It warms my heart.
By the way, I, Terri White, decided to practice what I preach and meticulously and thoroughly nit-picked and fine-tuned this amazing and marvelous essay about wordiness in writing. Oops!
Terri White is a veteran homeschool mom from the 80s and 90s and the founder/director of T.E.A.C.H. Cleburne. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.