Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Writing Tip About Word Count

It has been extremely busy here this past week. Today is the first day I have been able to get to my computer or to have any quiet time to concentrate on my blogs and sites. Company is great but, sometimes it is impossible to work without being rude.

After settling into a steady routine of catching up on things that I had neglected, I sorted through some articles and reports I had collected and saved for later use. One article in particular caught my eye. Glad I found it because it contains some very helpful information.

Below is the article, as written by Missy in the Writers Journal.
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Whacking Away at Word Count

Written by Missy on February 26, 20086:00 am

You’ve written a story you believe would be a perfect fit for a contest or publication. However, the story’s word count exceeds the guideline. Do you give up? Or would you try to find a way to shorten the word count? The March/April issue of Writers Journal addresses this dilemma.

Here are some tips MaryAnn Duffy suggests to help reduce word count without sacrificing important content:

  • Delete expendable words such as
    • to be verb construction
    • relative pronouns such as who, which, that
    • articles: the, a
    • prepositions such as of, for, at, in, by, etc.
    • sentences starting with pronouns: There is (are, were), it is
  • Eliminate obvious modifiers
    “Comparative adverbs such as very or more not only can be sacrificed without losing meaning but probably should be eliminated.”
  • Use punctuation instead of words
    “You murdered him, didn’t you?” vs “You murdered him?”
  • Make use of possessives
    “The logo of the rodeo is considered a classic.” vs “The rodeo’s logo is classic.”
  • Use a command
    “Even if your personal feelings differ, you should behave professionally.” vs. “Behave professionally, regardless of your feelings.”
  • Keep sentence structure simple
    “The simplest sentence is an independent clause — a subject and a predicate.” Avoid complex sentences.

Personally, I’ve used most of these suggestions for a while now. I certainly wish I had read this article long ago; it might have saved me a lot of headache. Of course, learning the hard way seems to make the lessons stick.


  1. just did this last night, had to shorten a 400 word article to 300 words for a contest at my college's alumni magazine. it also helps to have word count tool on your word processing program. i didn't discover that till this year...

  2. You are right, the word count tool tells me how many, the article helped me learn which words to cut. I can get really really wordy. lol

  3. Hmmm... I needed every one of those suggestions. I shall try my best to improve.

  4. Great tips. This is exactly how I edit down my work when necessary.


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