• Rachel Paige

Down and Up

I've been on a bit of a trend talking about revising and cutting words in particular. This week, we'll talk about another easy way to slice some words from your novel. Unnecessary or redundant prepositions.


Prepositions aren't usually thought of as filler words, but they are. When the preposition can be taken from the sentence without changing the meaning, there's no reason to keep it.


I think the two most obvious and common uses of this are "stood up" and "sat down."


For example:

I stood up and crossed the room.

I sat down on the floor,

I sat down next to her.

He stood up and left.


These could say:

I stood and crossed the room (better: I crossed the room. See here on why "stood" is unnecessary)

I sat on the floor.

I sat next to her.

He stood and left. (or simply, "he left.")


Don't those mean the same thing? Especially in the case of "stood up" there's really no other word that would be there. What else are you going to say? He stood left? He stood down? He stood sideways? If you say someone in your story stood, readers will assume that means up. If for some reason that's not the case, go ahead and say so.


Same with sitting. "Sit up" makes perfect sense, but only if a character is already seated. If they aren't, they have little choice but to sit "down." So don't tell the reader that. Just have them sit. Save the word. Tighten the writing.



Exercise 1:

Go into your current work and do a search for the words "up" and "down." How many of them can you cut?


Exercise 2:

See if you can come up with other unnecessary prepositions. I'll give you a hint: "of" is sneaky. It often gets placed after another preposition and before the noun. Like "crawled out of the window." You don't need it.

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