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Writing for Magazines --Part 9

By June Campbell

Part 9: Tightening Your Writing

Writing for magazines or for the web is tightly focused writing that makes it points with the fewest words possible.

Paper is expensive and reader's time is limited. Therefore, tight writing serves both the publisher and the reader. It serves you, too, because with limited word counts, you want to make every word count.

Let's look at an example:

Here, I have written a paragraph quickly, without making any particular tightening efforts:

"Since I moved to Vancouver, I have a brown thumb. Every plant I place on my balcony dies. I have no idea why this happens. I have had gardens before when I lived in Manitoba, and they grew wonderfully. I had vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees, grass - it all grew well. I had giant tomatoes. I planted asparagus from seed and it grew. I had rhubarb plants, strawberry plants, lilac bushes, zucchinis so numerous that I ran up and down the neighborhood at night dropping lush zucchinis into people's mail boxes. But here in Vancouver? I cannot grow anything. Every plant I put out on my balcony soon wilts, droops, turns brown and dies. I water them. I use a water meter to be sure I use enough water. I use fertilizer. I select plants that are said to do well in sunny environments. But to no avail. They're dead before I know it. My friends call my balcony Death Row. "

The above paragraph has 160 words. Let's see how I can tighten it up so I deliver the same message, but with fewer words and better readability.

"I have a brown thumb. My balcony garden is a graveyard. When I lived in Manitoba, I grew vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees and grass. I had giant tomatoes. I grew asparagus from seed. I had rhubarb plants, strawberry plants, lilac bushes and zucchinis so numerous that I skulked around the neighborhood at night dropping them in mail boxes. But not here in Vancouver. Every plant on my balcony wilts, droops, browns and dies. I use a water meter to ensure the correct amount of moisture. I use fertilizer. I select plants that allegedly flourish in sunny environments. But to no avail. My friends call my balcony Death Row."

Paragraph 2 has 108 words. It has lost nothing in content, but reads better and frees up an extra 52 words.

Do you see the difference tightening makes?

I can't tell you how to do it. I learned by writing and rewriting. In time, it becomes easy.

Here is one tip, however. Eliminate or reduce the use of adjectives and adverbs. Take "very" for example. Remove every "very" from your writing. The car isn't very big. It's just big. Or huge. The dog doesn't run very fast. It runs fast. Or rapidly. See what I mean?

Another tightening tip involves using short quotes from sources you have interviewed.

There's more about that in the next article in this series.

Now for the next step on your way to writing for magazines. ... Interviews and Quotes

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