- Basically. Why is it basic, and if it's basic, why do you have to tell the reader it's basic?
- Also. Go ahead--I dare you to do this: copy & replace every "also" with nothing (I say to myself). Does it make a difference? If it does, you didn't need it.
- In particular. Can't you see that it's a particular example?
- Attempts to serve as, attempts to prove. It does or it doesn't. Get off the fence and make this a more definite verb.
- Is also evident in. How about "informs," a more definite verb?
- Dashes and semicolons. Think about how your eyes glaze over when you see a semicolon-laden sentence, however nicely parallel the clauses are. What are you, a writer or a mouse? If you need a new sentence, start one.
- Way in which. Is anyone really going to care if you say "how" instead?
- Trendy words--er, important critical terms like "discourse." Do you really need these words?
- Thus. If the inference really does logically follow what you've said, do you need to signal it? "Thus" is important when you're presenting a paper, but is it a signpost that the written paragraph really needs?
- Just as . . . so too and Not only . . . but also. Apparently First Draft Undine loves these parallelisms, but Subsequent Drafts Undine should learn that she is not the 21st-century Henry James of sentence stylings or Milton in writing epic similes.
- This doesn't even count the places where I add in a critic who maybe wrote something that referred in passing to a text in 1992 and who I see in my imagination glaring at me and crucifying me in reviews if I don't cite him or her.
It takes a long time to write a shorter version, so hedging in an initial draft is just part of the process. I sometimes think, though, that we should track our manuscript words to give ourselves an extra bonus for writing fewer rather than more words in a day.
What words are you deleting today?