How to Weed Your Yard (and Your Writing)

Where did the grass go?Day 27. The yard is gone. The yard is gone. I can’t see the grass for the weeds…Where did the grass go?

I sometimes think about writing in terms of grass and weeds. The grass is the good, essential content. The weeds are filler words: just, so, though, like, that, anyway. My own weeds usually are “just,” “though,” and “that.” I’m self-conscious about the words. I look for them, and, if I see them, I consider what actions I should take.

I don’t want to kill the grass, so I try to avoid weed killer. In my experience, weed killer tends to kill more than weeds. It also kills anything good and pleasant – namely, the grass and any flowers or tree branches that somehow end up being targets of the weed killer.

I also don’t see the point in trimming the weeds. Deleting a word here and there may work, but it doesn’t necessarily make the yard look any better, and it doesn’t – pun intended – get to the root of the problem. Removing weeds is as much about improving the existing yard as it about eradicating the thistles and dandelions.

I’m more likely to get dirty. I grab a needle-nose shovel and some gloves. I dig at the root of the weed. Once it’s not hanging by its last, clingy, stubborn root, I pull the offending thing from the earth. The result isn’t pretty; the yard is pockmarked, but at least the weeds have been uprooted. I now can concern myself with making my yard a place of beauty rather than a home for weeds.

How do you weed your writing?


  1. magriebler says:

    A wise editor told me once to be very, very leery of phrases we think are worthy of Virginia Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald. That’s the kind of weed I tend to nurture in my writing. And yet — once I’ve yanked it out  and tossed it in the compost pile — I know I’ve improved my chances that readers will actually focus on the overall content instead of admiring the god-awful weed.

    • magriebler Ah, good point. Those sorts of weeds can overwhelm the writing and the message. It’s good that you’re able to yank them from your writing.

      • magriebler says:

        Erin F. I try. But sometimes I’m too dazzled byy own genius. That’s what editors are for.

        • magriebler Editors do come in handy. I rely on them, too, even if I sometimes play the part of editor as a writing coach. I can’t catch all my errors or kill some of my darlings on my own. 🙂

  2. I weed out words by having someone proof my comic strips. Most of the time, the panels are fine, but every once in awhile the weeds take over the grass and the panel is too wordy. It can be improved greatly by changing the words or phrase entirely which removes the filler and also enhances the point of the strip better.

  3. I have the same problem with “that”, which I then fixed by using “which”, of course, “which” got out of hand, too. Editing is hard, especially in novels, because there are so many words and weeds, but without it, the novel looks messy.
    I don’t do much editing with my blog and it shows. On those occasions where I do reread a post before hitting publish, there are always a few tweaks to be made. I probably should do more yard care on my posts. Who knows, this post may have inspired a better effort on my part.

    • ExtremelyAvg Longer works often are chores to edit. I’ve never written a novel, but I know that the work is intense.
      That’s one of the points of Write Right – raising awareness and inspiring change. I never would have become self-conscious about “just” if someone hadn’t pointed the word out to me.

  4. How funny that we both had a similar theme in our blog posts today! The same thought, but each very different. Yes, pull those weeds. The pockmarks will go away 😉

  5. Well, now I know what to look out for. 
    You know, I am a novice writer and I am striving to be much better at it. I have worked in an industry for over 20 years that relies on visuals as their primary communication tools but responses to proposals (to get work) are primarily written and require good writing skills. Architects traditionally can’t write. I plan to change that.
    This is why, no wait, this is one of the reasons this resource is so valuable to me. That and I love your style. Weeds indeed. Cheers!

    • rdopping Good for you! Maybe we should have a brainstorming session about how to help other architects?
      Thank you. I’m glad you like my writing style. 🙂
      Filler weeds, unfortunately, differ from yard to yard. There are some usual suspects, but everyone has a go-to word (or weed). One of mine is “just.”

  6. timbo1973 I always recommend writing first and editing later. You can get bogged down with the editing and forget about the writing.
    The nice thing about writing is that you can make it more succinct and crisper through editing, and it will still sound as though you’re having a conversation. You’ve just tidied it a little. 🙂

  7. ftuuuuu


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