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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