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.