5 impediments to riveting writing

These verbal tics bog down your writing and lull readers to sleep.

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Here are five stylistic flaws that can be eliminated in revision:

1. Unnecessary prepositional phrases

EXAMPLE: After all my hard work, the superintendent’s compliment was gratifying to me.

BETTER: After all my hard work, the superintendent’s compliment was gratifying.

The “to me” can be inferred by the reader.

2. Adverbs that are weak substitutes for a vivid verb

EXAMPLE: The stranger walked threateningly toward us.

BETTER: The stranger stalked toward us.

I do not share the universal contempt for the -ly adverb, but I do take the time to examine -ly adverbs when I revise, replacing them with an evocative verb if I can think of one. For example:

spoke softly = whispered

crawled stealthily = crept

spoke loudly = shouted

3. Stalling phrases like tried to, seemed to, began to, started to

EXAMPLE: The sun’s reflection seemed to glisten and waver on the water.

BETTER: The sun’s reflection glistened and wavered on the water.

EXAMPLE: I took a detour down two short flights of stone stairs and started looking for the Last Chance Saloon.

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