Reviews & Writing

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Writing

This dog revolutionized his bone catching technique.
An Old Trick

Ever wonder how writers write those beautiful, evocative descriptions?

Simple. They have a special technique. Use it, and your writing will improve tenfold.

Don't believe me? Just wait until you put it into practice. In fact, some of you probably already do. But for those who don't, here's the tip that will revolutionize your writing.

Avoid the word was. Avoid it like a room full of your exes.

Think twice before you use it and then twice about deleting it.

You do not know the evil in your words.
Hidden Evil

Ever heard of grocery-list descriptions? Those boring, sigh inducing lines of adjectives? If you haven't, here's one: "He was handsome, with blue eyes, a brown coat, and blue jeans."

Amateurish sounding writing, right? Notice something about it? Notice the was near the beginning of the sentence?

Take it out and restructure the sentence using actions, verbs.

"He leaned against the wall, his brown coat and blue jeans marring the white marble, his eyes chaotic like the sea."

Fancy, but not over the top. Avoiding was will make your writing more engaging and original. It will push you to create beautiful lines of description and short, active sentences.

For example, "He smiled," is much more effective than "He was smiling." It pulls the reader in, puts them in-the-moment.

Handle was like you would this word.
Playing With Fire

Now, sometimes you should use was.

"He was going to die before night fall," is an effective and appropriate use of that almost forbidden word.

But other times, resist the urge to defile your prose with heathen diction.

Your writing was good.

Now, it will be great.

The was removal kit.


  1. Great post and nice use of images. :)

  2. Good tip with helpful examples. I have to be ruthless about stripping "was" from my work where it isn't necessary. Thanks for the additional thoughts on how to do it.

  3. Thanks. Glad the information was useful, or the post interesting, or both.

    I got this tip a few months back from my writing group. They were ruthless, their sole goal to expunge WAS from the earth.

    They're still working on it. But they've definitely limited it in my writing.

  4. This mean...IS a great post. Thanks for the tips on making my writing clean and tight.

  5. Helpful post, D. Thanks for the examples, and for guiding me to think consider how something simple produces dramatic improvements. Appreciate the insight!