How to Be a Better Writer

How to Be a Better Writer: Use a Particular Pair of Scissors

Want to learn how to be a better writer? Use a particular pair of scissors

Truman Capote:

“I believe more in scissors than I do the pencil.”

 

Recently I drew inspiration from a few tips listed in an old newspaper column—because they stepped on my toes. One tip was: “Challenge every word.”

 

When I read that one, I instantly was reminded of a writing lesson learned the hard way. Twenty years ago, I was presenting a Grammar-for-Grownups workshop in Portland, Maine. A man approached me at the first break and said, “Mrs. Stanley, do you realize you’ve said the word particular seven times already this morning?” 

 

Apparently, he had been counting. 

 

He explained, “The word particular is what we consider to be a wasted word in the English language because it adds no value or meaning or clarification to any sentence.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to his observation. It was 20 years ago and much earlier in my career. (I was much younger, period.) So, I smiled and simply said, “Thank you for sharing.” I didn’t know what else to say in the moment. But, when I had a chance to process our conversation after the class, I realized he was correct. I had a habit of saying:

 

On this particular page

In this particular example

On this particular slide

For this particular exercise

 

I DID say particular too much. He made me painfully aware of it, so as a result of our conversation, I have purged that particular word from my presentations and my writing. He taught me to challenge the word particular.

 

Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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