“More than half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.”
 -John Irving


A writer isn’t doing his or her job if he or she isn’t understood.

When we write, we have to be clear and precise. We aren’t perfect, but the more we identify small phrases that don’t help our fiction, the more our fiction will have an impact.

I suppose you’re wondering what “small phrases” I’m referring to? Phrases such as “kind of” and “sorta” and “a little” are a few from the top of my head. What do those phrases really contribute? More often than not, they weaken what it is we want to say. I will show you examples from my own work (none of which are in their final drafts).

Using the “Find” feature in Word, I searched my stories for phrases such as: a little, kind of, and sorta. Let’s see what we find.

Brace yourselves.

We’re going to have to be a little bit deceptive. We’re going to need to be a little dirty.

Personally, I even have an issue with the way I constructed these sentences, but we won’t speak on that. Let’s focus on the two words a little (and “a little bit” in the first sentence. Cringe). I must’ve really enjoyed those two words because I have them in there twice! All joking aside, the sentences would be much stronger if those words were omitted.

Let’s move onto another story…

I preferred it a little divided.

As opposed to a lot divided? I’m not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. Maybe I was still reeling from NaNoWriMo and I was trying to get in as many words as possible. In the context I wrote this, my intent was to express the narrator’s preference for divided attention. As you see, I could have gotten that across better.

You’ve been kind of quiet.

Depending on the circumstances, this one could pass. But generally speaking, I think you’ve either been quiet or you haven’t been. Throwing in “kind of” only distorts the meaning.

I found it kind of nice of her.

Please, don’t throw your stones. I’m just as appalled as you. Sometimes these phrases work well though (i.e. “I love that she’s that kind of person”) so just because you find it in your work, don’t jump at deleting it. But do examine it.

It is supposed to be a sort of distress beacon.

So it sort of sends a beacon of distress, but not really? Does it work half the time and the other half it doesn’t? Is it part distress beacon, part toaster? What am I saying?!

After seeing the flaws in my own writing, I suggest you go do a search in your own work and yank out these useless words.

Have fun!