Writing Tips

5 ways to fight the writing flab

Writing to make a more powerful impact means cutting out the writing flab.

And with so many of us focusing just now on ways to shed some excess pounds, the post-Christmas diet seemed like the perfect inspiration for my first podcast of the New Year. (It’s okay, it’s not deadly serious, either about writing or dieting!)

5 ways to cut your writing flab (3 mins 16) suggests a writing diet based on:

  • Trimming the fat - cutting out the excess words that might have crept into your writing
  • Cutting the stodge - getting rid of the heavy stuff that it’s hard for your readers to get through
  • Filling up with nutritious words - plain, simple, everyday words are the best, but make sure they’re also specific, personal, connected to your values and identity
  • Using fresh ingredients - a fresh perspective, a curious frame of mind and writing with all your senses
  • Snacking sensibly - finding other outlets for your extra words, like a journal, private blog or Twitter account

What else would you include in a diet to beat the writing flab?


You can listen to the podcast by clicking the play button on the radio box, following this link or going to my gcast page.

For more tips on cutting the flab from your writing try 20 ways to cut your words and help to save the planet

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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10 Responses to “5 ways to fight the writing flab”

  1. On January 9, 2008 at 7:51 pm Robyn responded with... #

    I like this, Joanna. Not only do we have to get rid of the handles under our ribs, but we also have to get a good handle on “simplicity beyond complexity.” C.S. Lewis.

    Some days I’m really challenges as I read research on the brain and convert it to more everyday language. ;-)

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  2. On January 9, 2008 at 8:52 pm Brad Shorr responded with... #

    You’re talking my language, Joanna! Wouldn’t it be great to be a lean, mean, writing machine? You are spot in putting editing at the top of your list. Question - how much time should a writer spend editing versus writing? A couple random thoughts. I always try to eliminate adjectives. It seems to cut down on word flab. Also, something I picked up from Deb at Punctuality Rules - eliminate the word “that” from your sentences. Great trimming technique.

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  3. On January 9, 2008 at 10:31 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Robyn, to get a handle on simplicity beyond complexity, now that it something worth striving for. I think blogging helps us process our thoughts to get there too?

    As for your own work translating brain science into everyday language - all I can say is that you do a phenomenal job. You also make it human, engaging and humorous - but then I guess you’re using all your intelligences to make it so…? :-)

    Joanna

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  4. On January 9, 2008 at 10:38 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Lean, mean writing machine - Brad, I love it!

    How much time editing vs writing… I don’t think there’s an absolute. It depends in part on the purpose wouldn’t you say? For example I don’t think blogs need to be edited as carefully as an article or a report.

    It does also depend on your natural writing style - I think I write quite ‘tight’ naturally so (confessions!) don’t spend that long editing in order to cut - maybe I’d need to edit to make sure I hadn’t gone overboard with my dry prose, ending up so crisp that I was breaking rapport…

    I guess it all comes down to knowing your writing strengths and weaknesses, and taking responsibility for managing your own work.

    Joanna

    PS Cutting out “that” sounds like an interesting technique - I suspect I’m a bit guilty of that one, will watch out for it in future…

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  5. On January 10, 2008 at 11:08 pm Karen Swim responded with... #

    Joanna, great advice. I’d also add “exercise” to the list. Conditioning your writing muscles is similar to conditioning your body. Exercise becomes habit as you commit to a regular engagement. Muscles become more toned and stronger as you condition. Best of all no gym membership required. ;-)

    Karen

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  6. On January 11, 2008 at 12:37 am Robyn McMaster responded with... #

    Joanna, with a bit of inspiration from you here and from others who post a picture on Wednesdays, I decided to give that a go with a bit of difference.

    I chose a picture, included a quote by Einstein and then asked my visitors a question.

    Now that was paring things down. I’ve had some great responses including yours and now it has prompted me to write another post that builds on this.

    One thing leads to another and I keep experimenting as I know you do… ;-) Experimenting leads to adventure and discovery!

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  7. On January 11, 2008 at 11:24 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Karen, that’s priceless.

    Now I’m thinking I’m going to have to include another round up of writing tips this month with all the great suggestions provided by the readers of this blog :-)

    Joanna

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  8. On January 11, 2008 at 11:27 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Robyn, I love the way our words connect like this. I was prompted to respond to your post (when I haven’t always found or made the time to join in some other recent questions) because of the simplicity of the question. It spoke to me very directly.

    I guess one of the things we learn as bloggers is to get the balance between offering valuable content - ideas, thoughts, suggestions, learning points - and creating the space for our readers to join in.

    Experimenting does indeed lead to adventure and discovery, and as adventure is one of my watch-words for 2008 I’ll be doing more of it!

    Joanna

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  9. On January 26, 2008 at 6:47 pm David Bowman responded with... #

    We follow the advice of Louise Brooks: “Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.”

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  10. On January 27, 2008 at 10:06 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi David, that works in some contexts of course, but maybe not in just the same way in writing blog posts and comments, which tend to be more chatty and conversational - if we strip out too much do we risk cutting out the human dimension? In a way that wouldn’t apply say in a newsletter, article or an essay.

    Joanna

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