Image via WikipediaI have taken against a number of words and phrases as a consequence of my nasty writing habit. Some of these are insidious little things that creep into manuscripts like cockroaches, infesting decent prose with their chitinous scuttling.
It's odd, but the vast majority of sentences containing the word 'that', for instance, are improved by its removal. I have started taking against that in a mildly unreasoning way, even attacking unsuspecting thats as I walk down the street. (Have you ever walked into a grocer and complained about his apostrophes? No, me neither, but I have oft been sore tempted, I can tell you. Avocadoe's my arse!)
I have just purged a manuscript of the word 'before', which is almost always a symptom of lazy writing. Excising before almost always leads to better sentence structure or to forcing you to rewrite the sentence more elegantly.
He stood before walking quickly out of the room.
Not only includes a before, it also contains two other weasel words - stood and walking. We 'stand' so rarely and standing is such a passive thing to do. Stood goes 90% of the time to be replaced by a more active occupation or, ideally, no explanation of the movement - we can infer it. Similarly 'walking'. We run, jump, dash, fly, leap and race. Why bother walking? It's so humdrum.
Put and putting are also very passive ways to describe an action which can often either go (giving way to inference) or be replaced with a more active description. We rarely put things down - we drop them, bang them, toss them or perhaps even gently place them.
And then there's 'and then', which I recognise is a nasty little habit I have to consciously sweep up after. It's always redundant. Friends have other habits like 'just' - and 'started to' is an indication that you can usually lose the action altogether. Things starting to happen rarely interest us - it's the happening that engages.
Any contributions to my list of words up with which I shall not put are more than welcome!
Sorry for the writing post. Normal service resumed shortly...