I do a lot of book editing for my clients. Typically, my job is to clean up the text and make the emotions more vivid or (in the case of business books) the arguments more persuasive. I help my authors organize their thoughts and connect with their readers.
A common problem I encounter is wordiness. Too many extraneous and useless words, used to present the same idea over and over again, will create a soggy, leaden text that quickly becomes boring. If done to excess, all those extra words start to look like filler the author shoveled into the text to boost the word count.
Here’s an example of an unedited paragraph about the responsibilities of a nonprofit board of directors (not an actual client sample – I’ve written this for this post):
“The primary responsibility that the board of directors faces when they collectively go about their business of guiding the nonprofit through its daily operations can be summed up in just a few words. Without oversimplifying too much, it’s safe to say that the typical nonprofit board, in the course of their appointed duties as overseers of the 501 (c)(3) charitable organization, has an important task. In general, you can assert that it is governance rather than management that is their calling; and while some experts may disagree, we can safely say that in the majority of cases of nonprofit boards of directors, this is the path they take. Governance is what the board should occupy itself with, rather than management, because this is what a board is for, and it’s unwise to stray from its most important function and mission.”
It’s a perfectly acceptable paragraph – Grammarly found nothing wrong with it! But it’s deadly dull and stupefyingly uninformative. It takes up space while delivering scant nutrition.
Here’s the same paragraph reduced to its essence:
“The nonprofit board of directors must always concern itself not with the day-to-day management of the organization but with governance.”
This is what the reader needs to know. All the other verbiage was useless. Remember: Never use ten words when one will do!
- Thomas Hauck is a professional ghostwriter and book editor serving global clients and major publishing houses.