Posted by: nancycurteman | November 5, 2011

Polish Your Writing: Cut the Riffraff


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A quick way to polish your writing is to cut the riffraff. In short, good writing is concise. Inspecting your writing with a critical eye for unnecessary verbiage is the only way to eliminate riffraff. Check out the common riffraff below and cut it from your writing.

• Slim down your sentences. If you can replace a phrase with a word, do it.
Riffraff: People who are experienced swimmers know better than to swim alone.
Concise: Experienced swimmers know better than to swim alone.

• Trim meaningless phrases.
Riffraff: At that time…For all intents and purposes…For the most part
Concise: Simply leave the chatter phrases out

• Repetitive terms. Repetition is insulting to readers. They’re smart enough to get it the first time.
Riffraff: He was short in stature and obese in size.
Concise:  He was short and obese.

• Unnecessary pronouns. Forms of which is and who is are rarely needed in sentences.
Riffraff: John, who is her son, climbed Mission Peak, which is considered to be the highest peak in Fremont.
Concise: John, her son, climbed Mission Peak, considered the highest peak in Fremont.

• There is and there are. These two phrases are ineffective at the beginning of sentences.
Riffraff: There is a serious issue with which she must deal before she leaves.
Concise: She must deal with a serious issue before she leaves.

Riffraff adds nothing but useless words to your writing. Polish your writing by cutting it out.


  1. Great examples, NC. It’s a bit like packing for a trip . . . put out what you want to take, then cut it the pile in half.


    • Good analogy. And don’t we always pack too much?


  2. Good stuff, Nancy. Hard to so, sometimes, however.
    Then comes the actual dialogue of your characters,, some of them may speak in ways you would not… eh?


    • Good point. The tips may not apply to all characters’ dialogue. Some are supposed to chatter away.


  3. More good tips. I especially need this list. Thanks.


    • What are you writing? Is it a mystery or literary?


  4. Thanks Nancy for your precise words. They are greatly appreciated.


    • Thank you.


  5. Very good, and how true that we over-write sentences sometimes…


    • I guess that’s what rewriting is all about.


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