The Kindest Cuts

I am in full pruning mode, cutting away at extraneous words with scissorhands. It is painstaking work. Some words like very and really – as in very exciting or really, really true – simply beg to be snipped. But others are hidden in the undergrowth and have to be studied from several angles before the cut is judiciously made.

So often this work is not done anymore. I sometimes read books by famous authors and think to myself how much better they could have been if a really good editor had done a little cutting. But perhaps nobody has the chutzpa to suggest that famous work can be made more shapely. And the author fell down on the job of doing it his or herself.

Particularly because there are few good editors anymore, writers need to become their own editors. A good start is avoiding the use of very and really. But every word and phrase must be questioned and weighed for what it contributes by being present on the page and what it adds by being absent. Sometimes, absence can bring a thought out of obscurity and into the clear light of day. As counter intuitive as it is, less often really is more in writing, particularly if the concepts are complex ones.
Molly McKitterick