Tighten your writing by trimming unnecessary words.

This nifty little revision skill will make your writing more concise and let those verbs do more of the heavy lifting in your sentences.

Nodding His Head Yes

Original: Bartholomew nodded his head yes.

Nodding implies an affirmation, a yes, so adding “yes” in this sentence becomes redundant.

Better: Bartholomew nodded his head.

Nodding is a movement specifically for the head, so there’s no need to include “his head.” Bartholomew won’t be nodding any other body parts.

Best: Bartholomew nodded.

Let’s look at a similar example.

Original: Bartholomew shook his head no.

In the same way nodding implies yes, shaking your head implies no. Including the “no” is redundant.

Best: Bartholomew shook his head.

This is the best revision for this sentence. And in this case, we want to leave “his head” because there are many body parts Bartholomew could shake. In fact, he’s been known to hit the dance floor and shake a few tail feathers. I want to make it clear that’s he’s shaking his head and not his booty.

Similar actions you can revise to tighten your writing:

Original: She blinked her eyes several times.

Better: She blinked several times.

Original: She looked with her eyes at the clue.

Better: She looked at the clue.

Original: She smelled the flower with her nose.

Better: She smelled the flower.

When you should add “how” the character completes a routine action:

If the character is completing an action that lends itself to metaphor, or if the action is happening in an unusual way, that’s when you want to add more detail.


She listened with her heart.

He felt for the light switch with his toes. (Now, I’m curious. Why is he using his toes?)

A routine action you want to clarify:

There are some actions you’ll need to clarify because the action could have different meanings or be performed with more than one body part.


He snapped.

Do you mean he snapped his fingers or his neck? Or are you implying he lost his mind?


When you self-edit your manuscript, look for words and phrases that are redundant and don’t need to be explained to trim your word count and tighten your writing.

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