Making words needed

Part of any good advice on writing is to cut everything that isn’t doing some work. As the classic says ‘Omit needless words’, ‘Vigourous writing is concise’.

It occurs to me that sometimes, especially with scientific writing, that rather than have a choice of what to include and what to omit, you have a fixed number of ideas to include and your task, as a writer, is the mirror of the maxim above. Rather than ‘omit needless words’ you must find a way to make needed the words/ideas you are compelled to include. Any advice on how to do this would be appreciated.

One reply on “Making words needed”

A useful approach is to keep setting up questions in the reader’s mind. You can make the words ‘needed’ by creating a vacuum which the information you need to communicate can move into. It’s very similar to what fiction writers are doing. To keep the reader reading, a writer has to create an unresolved tension between characters and/or situations.

The problem, of course, is in finding ways to create the questions and the tension in the reader’s mind. I start by, if possible, tapping into questions/tensions that probably already exist.

The best science writing I’ve read uses exactly this method of keeping you reading with the promise there might be something even more interesting in the next paragraph!

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