Avoiding Obvious Phrases in Writing

I learned in my creative writing class, almost three years ago (I can’t believe it) in college, about avoiding basic things, such as repetition and avoiding phrases that are obvious.  I’m going to focus on two “obvious” phrases in writing today, both of which I’ve seen many of my editing clients use so many times it’s crazy.

The first phrase: “on my two feet” 

I’ve seen my one client use this phrase in sentences like, “I went to stand on my two feet” or “he put me down on my two feet.”  I mean, if you want, you could use this phrase sparingly, but personally I’d never use it.

Why it isn’t necessary:  Because most human beings have two feet.  Unless your character is an alien with multiple legs, or has a prosthetic leg, it is not necessary to tell your readers how many legs your character has.

How to avoid it: Simple, just chop it off of the sentence.  It reduces wordiness, which is always a great thing.  Ex: “He put me down.” “I stood.”

The second phrase: “nodded my head”

This is simple to do.  For example, “she asked the question, and I nodded my head.”  This, I would actually use VERY sparingly, because for some reason, to me, it doesn’t sound as crazy as the first phrase.

Why it isn’t necessary: Really, what else would you nod? Your foot?  No other part of the human body can really “nod” unless of course, you’re being very specific about something, like your character doing sign language and it looking like their hand is “nodding.”

How to avoid it: Very simple.  Just say, “I nodded.”

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