Creative Writing vs. Effective Writing

What’s the difference between creative writing and effective writing? Until my junior year of college I had no idea. I thought I was a good writer because I got A’s on all my papers in English Lit. and Creative Writing. This was good for my GPA, but bad for my future as a professional in the business world.

In reality, I was GOOD at bullshitting papers and writing the number of pages the professor wanted. Coincidently, I was BAD at effectively conveying the points in my papers, because I was writing about twice as much as I needed to.

For me, the first two years of college were spent creating bad writing habits that were really hard for me to kick. My classes were rewarding me for bullshitting papers when they should have been helping me to write more effectively instead of simply increasing my word count.

Thank God for Mary Groves, my Effective Business Writing professor. It wasn’t until taking her class that I realized that I was a really shitty writer. As a 21st century human being, the only writing I do is for emails, blogs, memos, business plans, etc. I don’t write fucking novels or stories.

Once you realize that your writing can probably be improved, you’ll begin to see your writing become more effective. I’m not an expert writer by any means. In fact, I’m still making the same mistakes that I did back in my sophomore year of college. But overall, my writing is more concise and effective than it used to be, and I encourage you to make yours so as well.

Five Wordy Habits to Avoid

(stolen from The Write At Home Blog)

1. Flowery Language

Flowery language is writing that seeks to amaze the reader with the writer’s intelligence. In most cases, simple and straightforward is best. Write to express, not to impress.

Wordy: At this juncture, it would be in the best interest of those in attendance here at this financial institution to elevate your metacarpi.

Concise: Alright, everybody in the bank, put your hands up. Now!

2. Deadwood

Deadwood refers to words that can be eliminated without changing or adding to the meaning of a sentence. These words simply take up space.

Wordy: The hotel was located in the nicer part of the city.

Concise: The hotel was in the nicer part of the city.

Wordy: The elephant grew to twelve thousand pounds in weight.

Concise: The elephant grew to twelve thousand pounds.

Wordy: Where is the pharmacy at?

Concise: Where is the pharmacy?

3. Unnecessary Phrases or Clauses

Often, lengthy phrases and clauses can be reduced to a word or two to increase conciseness.

Wordy: I gave my car keys to my sister.

Concise: I gave my sister my car keys.

Wordy: I saw a man who was dancing ballet in a wheat field.

Concise: I saw a man dancing ballet in a wheat field.

Wordy: Despite the fact that Richard finished the race first, he lost on a technicality.

Concise: Although Richard finished the race first, he lost on a technicality.

4. Started to… Or Began to…

A common bad habit is using started to or began to in sentences where the beginning of an action isn’t particularly being stressed.

Wordy: When Steven saw the shark, he started to shout and wave his hands.

Concise: When Steven saw the shark, he shouted and waved his hands.

Wordy: After her shower, Janet began to get ready for the dinner.

Concise: After her shower, Janet got ready for dinner.

5. Redundancies

Redundancies are words that simply repeat what has already been said. They are unnecessary.

Wordy: Mix the contents of the bowl together.

Concise: Mix the contents of the bowl.

Wordy: The team arrived at 7:00 AM in the morning.

Concise: The team arrived at 7:00 AM.

Other examples of common redundancies: return back, all-time record, forever and ever, join together, separate and distinct, over and above, descend down, visible to the eye, final outcome, over and over, repeat again, etc.

Five Wordy Habits to Avoid

Writing Concisely 

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