Most of the books we edit are shorter when we are finished with them than they were when we started. Cutting out extraneous words and sentences is by no means all we do, but it is almost always a part of it.
Something we always try to cut is redundancy. This crops up more than you would think. Writers are awfully fond of saying things twice. We suspect it is easy to get carried away with the poetry of what they are writing and miss the actual sense. But readers can get lost in extra words.
Below is a graph we wrote that contains at least six redundancies. Can you spot them? If so, let us know.
As the purple sky darkened, the twilight birds – notably a persistent owl – repeatedly called out from the adjacent woods. Shivering, Judy turned from the evening’s chill into the shelter of the cabin on the edge of the treeline to make dinner for Jim and the exhausted kids who would be arriving home soon from soccer practice, tired and hungry for their dinner. She sighed, weary with the onerous burden of cooking dinner every night which the kids never appreciated because they had no reason to, never having known anyone else to take on the role of cooking the evening meal.
If you can pick out the redundancies above, then you can apply the same eagle eye to your own writing. (Hint: it helps to let the material sit for a period of time so that you approach it with a fresh eye.) Learning how to choose words and keep them spare and to the point is a writer’s job. This kind of analysis will improve the quality of your work. And – since most editors charge by the word – it will reduce the cost of professional editing if you decide to go that route.