Cut Out Every Sixth Word

An editor in California, DeWitt Scott once co-created a computer program that automatically knocked out every sixth word in his writings. Scott realized that though the program often deleted words that he needed, it also showed him that he could edit his writing more ruthlessly.

Look at your own stuff. What if you deleted every sixth word— or every third word—or even every fourth sentence?

No doubt you would sometimes lose a word or phrase you needed. But I bet you'd learn that you could tighten your writing, too. Readers today want concise, simple writing. Delete everything that doesn't serve your writing. Trim the fat. If that means knocking out every sixth word, then do it!

Sometimes writers tell me they can't possibly tighten their writing. It's perfect as it is, they say.

"Could you trim your writing if you were offered $1,000 to do so?" I ask. They sure can! Your writing isn't carved in stone. It's plastic. You can change it, delete it, and redo it.

Remember the "delete every sixth word" program as you reread your writing. It will help you strengthen your material. Also remember the great quote from novelist Elmore Leonard: "I try to leave out the parts people skip."

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