“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon” (E. L. Doctorow).
What some people don’t realize is that to be better at writing, you have to be better at removing the unnecessary. You have to be willing to change the structure to increase effectiveness as opposed to making it sound dramatic. You need to cut it short so the reader can move on.
Don’t hold readers in place as you try to flood them with adjectives and comparisons to make sure they get the idea. The readers experience is their own and if you can write well instead of writing a lot, they’ll get the picture.
The three tips I have will go into detail and show you effectiveness in writing is basic and overlooked by those wanting to over-complicate it to sound crafty.
Use Active Voice Over Passive Voice
People who write want to tell people a story. They want to narrate something and do it in a way that achieves impact.
The best way to be effective in writing is to utilize active voice to show the reader rather then tell.
The first example I have here is active voice and the second is passive voice.
- “He kicked him in the side knocking him down to the pavement.”
- “He had been knocked down to the pavement just as he was kicked in the side.”
If the difference isn’t too noticeable, let me explain it.
They give the same thing, tell the same story, but one makes the reader feel like they are following the action as it happens.
Kicking someone and coming outright saying, “he kicked him” gives you a specific time of the exact moment in the story it happens. It’s not as hazy like explaining “just as he was kicked” where the reader feels more like they are being told by someone the events that just took place.
Good writers present good imagery in their stories because in moments of action, active voice is prioritized so the reader can feel like every line is another action being taken place.
Readers get pulled in when they feel in control of the action, and passive voice makes them feel like the whole story already happened.
Another bonus to this is active voice has obvious better flow because again, the action is be presented out as it is happening making it easier to follow.
Remove Words As Much As Possible
In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he says the best way to start editing is to take the first draft and remove 10%.
Less is more when it comes to taking out the parts that reinforce when no reinforcement is needed.
Whether it be an essay or just for fun, so many things we write are filled with too many words that when taken out, don’t take away any meaning. If anything they add more.
The example I have here is a sentence with too many words and the same sentence with a lot removed.
- “In order to give my writing more texture, I have to do that by removing the unnecessary extra words in my boring sentences.”
- “To give my writing more texture, I have to remove unnecessary words in boring sentences.”
It’s faster, it sounds better, and what is being talked about doesn’t change.
I removed words that were repetitive like “extra” because the point is already made with “unnecessary”. Unnecessary extra is just saying something twice.
I also changed the repeated emphasis of “I have to do that by” because we already know through reading the sentence that we are explaining what will be done, so we don’t need to restate “this is how it will be done”.
Lastly, I removed “my” because we know we are talking about my writing right from the start, so saying “my sentences” is a restatement.
You may see that I could have removed “more” before “texture”, but I chose to keep it because although it may not seem too necessary, we are talking about making writing more textured so as to not say there wasn’t any before.
Fluff won’t go far, and will only take up the time of the reader reducing the volume of effectiveness by drowning it in repetition.
Use Adverbs As Little As Possible
In an attempt to make the descriptions sound better and give the reader a better image, you must let go of adverbs unless they are completely (see that) necessary.
Jumping right into an example, here’s two sentences. One with and one without adverbs.
- “She was wondering if the taxi had immediately stopped because the driver accidentally pulled the handbrake.”
- “She wondered if the taxi took an immediate stop because the driver pulled the handbrake by accident.”
The difference in this might be hard to see at first, but the change in sentences remove the feeling of an in the head scenario to an actual scenario.
Immediately adds how the taxi stopped, when we can get the same action, with a more confident description by changing it to an immediate stop. If the bus took an immediate stop, you have a much better picture than the bus stopping immediately. You may not notice it, but upon first read they are different in effectiveness.
Secondly, doing something on accident sounds a lot more appropriate than “accidentally” taking an action. We can say we accidentally did something, but that’s adding description to how we did something when by or on accident sounds much more accomplished.
In order to texture your writing, you have to understand that writing isn’t about hitting a word count or adding more adjectives for the reader to better understand what took place.
A reader will better understand when you take them on the trip instead of narrating it.