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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Carolyn Rills on Wordiness, the Opportunity Killer!

An Attack on Wordiness: All the Better for Your Business Letter My Dear

We all know that we should avoid wordiness. The trouble is, we become so used to phrases that clutter our speech and our writing that we often don't realize they need a good edit and thus they loiter there in whatever were writing, from a blog entry to business letter, cluttering up the place.

I thought I'd share with you some wordy phrases that can always be shortened, though--on rare occasions--you may not want to do that. It's yours to decide, but when you see these phrases in your writing they're clear warnings to take heed:

"The exact same..." That's redundant, huh? "The same" will do.

"Due to the fact that..." Substitute "because."

"In need of..." Just "need" will do.

"In addition to..." is a phrase that often forces you to repeat something you've already said.

"Used for purposes of..." How about just "Used for..."

"She is a woman who..." can probably be replaced with the woman's name or just plain "she."

"May be in need of..." Shorten that one to "may need."

Overall, active sentences are shorter and livelier than sentences that curl back on themselves.

You may ask, if these little gremlins may litter our speech unnoticed, why worry? Well, they may very well annoy someone who counts. An agent. An editor. A the CEO of company youd like to sell something to. These people have been around the yard for a while and will often use wordiness as a determiner: Should they chuck you cover letter or your resume or give it a read? Its probably best not to take a risk.

Mmmmm. "May very well..." in that last paragraph of mine. How about just "may." It's nice to write like we talk. It can even help us reflect our personalities in our work. But that "very well" couldn't add that much to this piece--especially at the risk of ticking off a reader.

I bet you can find others in this post if you look. I'm collecting often-used, wordy phrases. Maybe for a booklet. Maybe for my Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In blog ( If you think of any of your own, please let me know. If I include your suggestion, I'll credit you and include the name of your book and a link to your Web site. Find me at HoJoNews [at] AOL. com or

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

A Tip for Writers: :

Writers interested in their craft know that last-minute edits can mean the difference between success and failure. My new booklet, Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers, will help all writers, from those who write business letters to those who pen poetry. Find it on Amazon.

A Tip for Readers' Tip: Carolyn is reworking her Web site. Find lots of reading suggestions on the Resources for Readers pages at

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