Writing Quick-Tip: Weed Out Empty Verbiage

Ten miles from where I live lies Shaw Lake fen, a rare and beautiful wetland where wild orchids and carnivorous plants grow and tamarack trees ring the tiny lake like an emerald necklace. When I first began visiting the place many years ago, a trail led over a rise and directly into the fen. Access was easy. But today the trail is overgrown, and poison sumac guards what had once been my entry point. I no longer take that old footpath. Too much stuff gets in the way. Empty information is like that for your readers. It clutters up a sentence and hampers access to what they're after. What do I mean by "empty information"? Here are a few examples. Case one

I remember a time when I was a boy and I climbed a big tree near my house.

Of course you remember. When you tell about something that happened to you, you're remembering. Readers understand that; you need not tell them. Just say, When I was a boy, I once climbed a big tree near my house. See? No underbrush to clutter things up. Case two

From these examples, it's easy to see that shoulder harnesses and seat belts save lives.

Let the reader decide how easy something is to see. Go straight to the core: These examples demonstrate that shoulder harnesses and seat belts save lives. Or maybe just, Shoulder harnesses and seat belts save lives. Case three

As has already been stated, unforgiveness hurts the person who refuses to forgive at least as much as it does the person who caused the hurt.

Readers will recognize when you're restating a concept, and if they don't, then from their perspective, what you're about to say hasn't already been stated. Either way, the opening phrase adds nothing useful. Omit it and begin with unforgiveness. The above three examples all contain material that is peripheral to the topic. It's non-news that requires no explaining, often arising out of an impulse to pad one's writing with filler cliches.

Now, here's the balance: don't interpret any of the above dogmatically

The point of this post isn't to set inflexible rules but to help you think about why you write what you write so you can weed out redundancies. Context suggests what is relevant and what is not, and you're the one who must make that judgment. Just remember, your readers are savvy enough to figure out the obvious and the implicit. Trust their intelligence. Doing so will help you keep the path to what really interests them tangle-free.  

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