Cutting the Fat: Trimming Flabby Writing

Writers and editors often have to trim writing. The reasons vary – but it’s almost always hard work and takes newcomers way too long. Word trimmers hunt redundancies, make verbs active, and prune phrases. These are all very useful tactics, but they don’t often trim the text by much. If you have to really cut the fat – or want to know how a pro does it — let me show you my technique:

  1. Take a step back from the writing – put it away for an hour or a night or during a walk to the water cooler.
  2. Mentally review the answers to the What? Who? Why? How? Where? questions. (See Services for more about these questions.)
  3. Reread any written feedback.
  4. Print out a hard copy of the text.
  5. Bring out the machete—well, the highlighter. Use the techniques in “How to Cut” below.
  6. Only after you have cut out the big chunks of fat, move on to trimming. You likely know the routine already – change “At this point in time” to “Now”, check all passive verbs, and so on.

How to Cut

© Laura Edlund 2010