Writing Tips

Useless Words

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Pig Latin Pop Quiz

What Does "Throat-Clearing" in a Sentence Look Like?

What do the Marketing Director at the Rome Tourist Office, author of West with the Night Beryl Markham, and one of Prince William’s many unauthorized biographers have in common? Probably nothing. But if we had to guess, which ones would it be?

1) they all start the day with a bowl of Grape Nuts, Breakfast of Writers;
2) they all own designer cockerpoodles;
3) they all speak Pig Latin;
4) they all attended the Itwashewho Academy of Writing.

Time's up. The answers? Maybe #1, but I’m not sure about the biographer; no to #2, not in Italy or Africa; #3 is a given, what with Pig Latin now the universal language for all international treaties and contracts; and #4? Definitely. We have abundant evidence that all three attended the Itwashewho Academy.

At the academy, instructors teach students to begin each story with, “It was on a dark and stormy night that Lord Throckmorton padded the lonely halls of the castle in his stocking feet.” And end each story with, “It was from then on that they lived fairly happily ever after.” The academy is in London, just off Bond Street, next to that little shop with all the multi-colored macarons in the window.

Instructors at the academy, known locally as “The ‘It’ School,” pound into their students’ skulls how to lavish sentences with openings like:

It should be noted that . . . .
It will be remembered that . . . .
It must be said that . . . .
It is axiomatic that . . . .

and other word tripe. (See Tip: The Windup Before the Pitch.”) (They’re all part of the WordRake patents, and the WordRake software will edit hundreds of these for you.)

Itwashewho instructors also teach their students to vary sentences by sometimes opening with a slightly different pattern, where we can delete only some of the words. Remember: little good happens between an it and a that or a who or a when.

Let's look at the evidence to support #4:

The Marketing Director at the Rome Tourist Office. After struggling to understand the girls in seventh grade who spoke conversational Pig Latin, I am ultra sensitive to anyone coming new to the English language. But I still cannot understand how anyone, especially in marketing, could consistently write:

It was Florence that Michelangelo always called his home. It was Rome however, that bent his will to create for the Eternal City the most important collection of work by any genius! [Then flip the first sentence: Michelangelo always called Florence his home.

It was Bramante (1444 –1514) who convinced Julius II to engage Michelangelo as a painter and to have him repair and decorate the vault of the Sistine Chapel.

It was early in the sculpting of the tomb that Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece was painted. [To remove the passive voice, flip this one, too: Early in the sculpting of the tomb, Michelangelo painted his Sistine Chapel masterpiece.] (See Tip: Boring Is As Boring Writes.)

Beryl Markham. Don’t get me wrong, I loved West with the Night. So did Hemingway. After reading it, he wrote to his editor, "I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen." Yet we have proof that Markham also attended Itwashewho Academy:

It is this combination of physical strength and willingness to work that has made the Kavirondo the most tractable and dependable source of labour in East Africa.

It is when we presume to intimacy, having been granted only tolerance, that the harsh stick falls across our impudent knuckles and we rub the pain, staring upward, startled by our ignorance.

Before such a flight it was this anticipation of aloneness more than any thought of physical danger that used to haunt me a little.

Prince William’s unauthorized biographer (the one in the holly disguised as a hedgehog):

It was the night of the annual Don’t Walk charity fashion show, March 27, 2002, when the moment of realization suddenly hit him.

It was Kate who pulled away, momentarily stunned that he had been so bold in a room full of strangers.

It was the summer of 2004 when William and Kate’s love affair underwent its first serious test.

When we remove these useless words, our writing becomes tighter and richer. Oh, and for all the girls in seventh grade who told secrets in Pig Latin around us guys? We know what you said. We weren't that upid stay.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

WordRake takes you beyond the merely grammatical to the truly great—the quality editor you’ve always wanted. See for yourself.

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How Does it Work?

WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.