Writing tip — Word repeats and avoiding ‘you’ and ‘yours’

This column will begin a series of Of Is and By writing tips. Each one will tackle a topic covered in the upcoming book.

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Tip #1

In writing, one of the biggest blocks toward more concise copy is word repetition. Everyone does that; a word works and it gets repeated. The other is unnecessary words. In this example, we have both. You is unnecessary and to be avoided, as readers know they are being addressed. In the following example, from a blog, you has been repeated 11 times in 106 words. That’s 10 per cent of the words in the paragraph are the same one.

Here it is:

Sometimes you have to mentally pack so you spend as little time as possible actually doing it before or after work, with a 50% chance of forgetting a necessity like your toothbrush, comfiest shoes or portable charger. Never mind having time to research “things to do” or “where to eat” wherever you may be going. On the flip side, if you have time, you likely over pack as you dive into your what may seem, bottomless closet and think “I might wear this”, only to end up wearing 25% of what you packed and wishing you left room in your luggage to bring home new things. 106 words (you or your: 11 times).

Let’s break it down:

Original

Sometimes you have to mentally pack so you spend as little time as possible actually doing it before or after work, with a 50% chance of forgetting a necessity like your toothbrush, comfiest shoes or portable charger.

First cut

Mentally packing sometimes and spending less time actually shoving things into a carry-on reduces the 50% chance of forgetting necessities like toothbrushes, comfy shoes or portable chargers.

Commentary

Gerunds or ‘ing’ words often save the day. ‘Sometimes you have to mentally pack’ turns into ‘mentally packing sometimes’ and ‘so you spend as little time as possible’ becomes ‘spending less time.’ ‘A 50% chance of forgetting a necessity like your toothbrush, comfiest shoes or portable charger’ provides some interesting editing opportunities. Note how pluralizing saves words: ‘forgetting necessities like toothbrushes, comfy shoes or portable chargers.’ Pluralizing is very helpful, especially when eliminating gender. ‘He or she’ did this as opposed to ‘They did this.’

Second cut

  1. Never mind having time to research “things to do” or “where to eat” wherever you may be going.
  2. Never mind researching the destination’s “things to do” or “where to eat.”

Destination replaces ‘wherever you may be going.’Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 3.06.20 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-12-13 at 3.07.51 PM.png

  1. On the flip side, if you have time, you likely over pack as you dive into your what may seem, bottomless closet and think “I mightwear this”, (punctuation error) only to end up wearing 25% of what you packed and wishing you left room in your luggage to bring home new things.
  2. On the flip side, most over pack, diving into what may seem like a bottomless closet, thinking “I mightwear this,” ending up wearing little of it, wishing there was more room to bring home new things.

The result

Mentally packing sometimes and spending less time actually shoving things into a carry-on reduces the 50% chance of forgetting necessities like toothbrushes, comfy shoes or portable chargers. Never mind researching the destination’s “things to do” or “where to eat.” On the flip side, most over pack, diving into what may seem like a bottomless closet, thinking “I might wear this,” ending up wearing little of it, wishing there was more room to bring home new things. 89 words (‘you’ not used at all)

 

 

Author: rotmanprwriter

PRWriter, Copy Doctor, Humber College PR and writing Prof

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