PADDING IS GOOD for mattresses and pillows.
It’s not so good for writing.
Padding out your writing means stuffing your sentences with words that aren’t needed. I just did it there. Delete the word ‘out’ from the first sentence in this paragraph and it means the same thing.
Oddly, despite people apparently having less time, or less patience, to read any more, padded sentences seem to be getting more common.
They’re everywhere: in magazines, blogs, social posts and in virtually every email we ever receive. No wonder we can’t be bothered to read to the bottom of the page!
And if we can’t be bothered to read the whole story, we can be sure that those we communicate with also give up before reaching the end.
If you can deliver your message in three words, why use 10? True, the other seven may add colour. They are also likely to dilute the thing you really want to get across to the reader.
So, to help you avoid padding your sentences, let’s look at some examples that crop up a lot. The idea being that by becoming more aware of the issue, you’ll take more care with your own writing in future. Here we go:
In order to write concisely, I use fewer words.
Delete the words ‘in order’ from that sentence and see what happens to the meaning? Correct: nothing.
Basically, I’m not a fan of reading unnecessarily long sentences.
In which case it would be a good idea to delete ‘basically’.
At this moment in time, I’m too busy to write.
But evidently not too busy to write more than necessary, because the first five words of that last sentence could be replaced with just one: ‘now’.
One thing we do a lot in the communications industry is plan. Here’s how the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word:
A detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.
We all knew that, right? So, why do we ever write ‘pre-plan’ or ‘forward-plan’? To plan is to prepare for something that can only happen in the future, which makes ‘pre-’ and ‘forward-’ redundant.
Speaking of the future, why do we repeatedly write ‘moving forward’ at the end of sentences like the following?
Our strategy is to cut costs, moving forward.
Remember, it’s not possible to have a strategy to cut costs in the past. The past is the thing that’s already happened.
A word like ‘somehow’ is, well, somehow written much too often. The same can be said of ‘simply’ and ‘perhaps’. So, perhaps we should simply remove such words from all sentences in which they add nothing.
"Padding out your writing means stuffing your sentences with words that aren’t needed. I just did it there. Delete the word ‘out’ from the first sentence in this paragraph and it means the same thing."
I expect you’re getting the gist of it by now. So, I won’t even point out which two words we could chop from the three-word phrase ‘cut this down’ without losing any meaning.
And the majority of us know when we hear a sentence that includes the words ‘sold off’ that one of those words isn’t needed. We could also replace ‘the majority of us’ with ‘most’.
You see, they really do pop up all over the place. And most of us are guilty of using them. But by being mindful of what we write, we are likely to add fewer extra words. Which will make our sentences shorter. And our writing better.
As I said, padding is good for mattresses and pillows. Which may be handy for our readers if we insist on padding our sentences. Zzzzz…
By Lucas North - Copywriter