Over the last 28 years, I have edited a lot of documents. In that time, I’ve seen my fair share of lazy writing; actually, I may have seen even more than my fair share. I’ve noticed that much of the lazy writing often falls into a handful of categories.

Here are 5 ways to wake up your lazy writing and get it moving.

1. Be active.

One of the most obvious signs of lazy writing is overusing the passive voice. Good writers make sure the subject of the sentence takes ownership of the action in the sentence. Compare the following:

  • The ball was thrown by Billy.
  • Billy threw the ball.

Both of these sentences mean the same thing, but one is stronger than the other. The writer makes it clear that Billy has taken ownership of the ball throwing.

Passive voice isn’t an evil scourge in itself and it has its uses, but relying on it too much shows a lack of commitment to what you write.

2. Use strong words.

Speaking of strong writing, try to find words that are clear, concise, and full of meaning. Why write “utilize” when “use” works perfectly well? Why say “a number of” when “several” seems better? There are roughly 250,000 words in the English language; there’s a good chance one exists precisely for the idea you want to convey.

3. Use adverbs sparingly.

Adverbs are useful, but sometimes a stronger verb can work better than a weaker verb and an adverb. Take a look at these examples:

ran quickly sprinted
said quietly whispered
walked loudly stomped
sipped noisily slurped

Don’t forget to watch out for redundant adverbs, too, such as “run quickly”, “creep quietly”, or “shout loudly”. In these examples, the adverbs repeat what the verb already implies.

4. Chop the fluff.

For some reason, we have a tendency to stuff our works with filler words. It’s pointless: it takes longer to write and longer to read, and it dilutes the meaning and strength of the sentence.

Here are a few examples of how to rewrite popular filler phrases:

A number of Several
Absolutely necessary Necessary
In order to To
In regards to Regarding
Every single one of Each of
Period of time Period
Is able to Can

For other tips on chopping out the fluff, check out How to chop your word count like a lumberjack.

5. Edit.

Don’t just run your work through your default spellchecker. Check it for wordiness, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, homophones, and the like. If you need a second set of eyes, consider getting an editor. (That may have been a self-promotion plug).

Bonus tip

Read. Read a lot.

Reading helps you better grasp not only language structure but also its nuances. Plus, it increases your vocabulary, as well as your knowledge of the world.

Follow these quick tips, and you’ll quickly see your writing with a spring in its step, and it may even inspire a few people.

What writing tips do have?

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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