Twain recommends: Eliminate unnecessary words

In honor of Mark Twain’s birth on this day in 1835, here are some of his quotes about writing.

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

While “really”, “actually” or “extremely” might add emphasis to your speech, they can often be avoided in writing. It’s not always easy, I know, but take Twain’s advice. Cut them. When you go back to edit your work, use a stronger verb,  adjective, or adverb that means “very” something (the action or the descriptor).

The word that is another word we use too often. Read the sentence without it and you can usually do without it.

Here are some phrases that can be cut down:

in a hasty way   hastily (specific adverb)

in spite of the fact that   although (one word, instead of six)

As to whether   whether (one word, instead of three)

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.  Mark Twain, 10 Feb 1868

For a directory of Mark Twain’s quotations and opinions, visit: