A couple of weeks ago, I shared a list taken from the Elevate – Brain Training app of common phrases that are unnecessarily wordy and should be edited out of most writers’ first drafts. Continuing on that theme, today I’d like to share another list of phrases from a similar Elevate game, Brevity, this time of redundant phrases that should be simplified for conciseness. Redundancy is another common plague of first drafts, so you can never know too many tips for making your writing as clear and concise as possible!
So for your reference, here are 16 redundant phrases you should simplify while editing your writing. Enjoy!
1) Empty space: Space, by definition, is an unoccupied area, so the word “empty” is redundant. Simplify “empty space” to “space”.
2) Evil fiend/villain: The word “fiend” or “villain” already implies said person is evil. Simplify “evil fiend” to “fiend” or “evil villain” to “villain”.
3) First and foremost: An unnecessarily long phrase to indicate something that is most important. Simplify “first and foremost” to “first”.
4) Follow after: To follow already means to go or come after someone or something. Simplify “follow after” to “follow”.
5) HIV virus: HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus”, so the word “virus” is redundant. Simplify “HIV virus” to “HIV”.
6) In order to: A longer and less direct way of saying “to”. Simplify “in order to” to “to”.
7) Join together: To join means to connect two things to each other, making the word “together” redundant. Simplify “join together” to “join”.
8) None at all: None, by definition, means not any, so the phrase “at all” is unnecessary. Simplify “none at all” to “none”.
9) LCD display: LCD stands for “liquid crystal display”, so the word “display” is redundant. Simplify “LCD display” to “LCD”.
10) Might possibly: Both “might” and “possibly” indicate uncertainty of an event taking place. Simplify “might possibly” to “might”.
11) Past experience: Experience already indicates knowledge gained in the past. Simplify “past experience” to “experience”.
12) Please RSVP: RSVP stands for the French expression “répondez s’il vous plaît”, or “please reply” in English, making the word “please” redundant. Simplify “please RSVP” to “RSVP”.
13) PIN number: PIN stands for “personal identification number”, so the word “number” is redundant. Simplify “PIN number” to “PIN”.
14) Terrible disaster: A disaster is an event that causes great damage, making the adjective “terrible” unnecessary. Simplify “terrible disaster” to “disaster”.
15) Totally destroyed: To be destroyed is to be completely ruined, so the adverb “totally” is unneeded. Simplify “totally destroyed” to “destroyed”.
16) Unsolved mystery: A mystery is already an unexplained or unsolved event. Simplify “unsolved mystery” to “mystery”.
Are you guilty of using any of these phrases in your writing? What other redundant phrases would you add to this list?
If you’ve been writing for most of your life, you’ll probably agree that editing is the hardest part of the craft. For those of us who take our art seriously, the joy of creation is always followed by the challenge of polishing, which can be especially difficult for those of us who deal with the many rules of English. One of the most common mistakes inexperienced writers make is using unnecessarily wordy phrases in their first drafts, which is why the Elevate – Brain Training app includes a game called Clarity, an exercise that teaches players how to simplify said phrases to improve the flow of their writing. I’ve learned quite a few editing tips from this game, and I think you might find them useful too!
So for your reference, here are 14 wordy phrases you should eliminate from your writing during the editing phase. Enjoy!
1) As long as: a common phrase used to indicate that something will happen under a certain condition. Simplify “as long as” with “if”.
2) At the end of: indicates something that is last or that follows something else. “Simplify “at the end of” with “after”.
3) Draw attention to: refers to someone or something that deserves notice. Simplify “draw attention to” with “highlight”.
4) Give an indication of: implies a hint or a glimpse of something. Simplify “give an indication of” with “indicate” or “reveal”.
5) Have an effect on: the passive form of the verb “affect”. Simplify “have an effect on” with “affect” or “influence”.
6) Hold a conference: passive phrase meaning to gather people to talk. Simplify “hold a conference” with “confer”.
7) In conjunction: indicates two events that are connected. Simplify “in conjunction” with “along”.
8) Not the same: negative phrase indicating something that differs from a given subject. Simplify “not the same” with “different”.
9) Notwithstanding the fact: redundant when the fact is explained in the sentence. Simplify “notwithstanding the fact” with “although”.
10) Owing to the fact: also redundant when the fact is already explained. Simplify “owing to the fact” with “because”.
11) Relating to: indicates something related to a given subject. Simplify “relating to” with “about”.
12) Spell out: informal phrase meaning to describe something in detail. Simplify “spell out” with “explain”.
13) Take action: the passive form of the verb “act”. Simplify “take action” with “act”.
14) There is a chance it will: lengthy phrase used to indicate that something might happen. Simplify “there is a chance it will” with “it may”.
Are you guilty of using any of these phrases? What other wordy phrases would you add to this list?
In the past two weeks, I shared a list of awesome Disney princesses and how they can be great role models for girls. But what about the heroines who aren’t official royalty? Outside of its famous princess franchise, Disney has turned out some awesome female characters who are just as worthy of recognition and a noble title as their royal peers. They may not be official princesses, but they’re still amazing role models!
So to complement the previous list, here are five of my favorite non-princess Disney heroines who girls can still look up to as potential role models. Enjoy, and for the final week of March, Happy Women’s History Month!
1) Jane Porter (Tarzan)
He seemed confused at first, as if he’s never seen another human before. And his eyes were intense and focused, and… I’ve never seen such eyes. – Jane describing Tarzan to her father, Professor Archimedes Q. Porter
Being an environmentalist for as long as I can remember, I’ve always admired Jane Porter from Tarzan as one of my favorite non-princess Disney heroines. Set on understanding and protecting gorillas, Jane jumped at the chance to go on a research expedition with her father to study the animals in Africa, which was a pretty big deal for an English woman living in the Victorian age. She’s intelligent and naturally inquisitive, evidenced by her fascination with Tarzan and her eagerness to teach him everything she can about humans and civilization. Though primarily a zoologist, she is also artistic, being clearly talented with a pencil and paper, and she shows extraordinary courage during the climactic fight to save Tarzan’s family from Clayton’s henchmen. On top of everything, Jane is extremely adaptable, quickly making the transition from being well out of her element in the jungle to feeling right at home with Tarzan and the wildlife that so captivates her. Overall, Jane is eccentric, adorable, and a nature enthusiast who any girl interested in environmentalism and conservation efforts can look up to. Long live the Queen of the Jungle!
2) Nani Pelekai (Lilo and Stitch)
Sometimes you try your hardest, but things don’t work out the way you want them to. Sometimes things have to change, and maybe sometimes they’re for the better. – Nani to Lilo
Nani Pelekai, Lilo’s older sister and guardian in Lilo and Stitch, may well be the most underrated heroine Disney has ever created. After the tragic loss of their parents in a car accident, this young Hawaiian surfer girl was forced to grow up faster than expected and take on the responsibilities of a parent to her little sister at the age of nineteen. She naturally struggles through the process, still technically being a teenager, but where it counts, she always does everything in her power to put Lilo’s needs first. From indulging her quirks to letting her adopt an alien dog just so she’ll have a friend, Nani keeps on going the extra mile to give her sister the happy life she deserves, even when it means forgoing a romance with David (who, by the way, is also awesome) or having to be brave for Lilo while her own heart is breaking. Nani is strong, loving, and completely real, making her an amazing heroine and a wonderful model of sisterly love and the true meaning of Ohana!
Also, for your consideration: ever notice the dust-covered surfboard and trophies in her room, or wonder how she rides those waves so well in the “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” sequence? There are various clues throughout the film that suggest Nani was actually on her way to become a professional surfer before she had to give up her dream to take care of Lilo. Now that’s truly putting family first!
3) Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help! – Esmeralda to Frollo
A far cry from being a royal, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a poor gypsy girl living in the streets of medieval Paris, but don’t mistake her low social status for helplessness. Not only can she hold her own in a fight and evade a dozen guards with incredible ease, she’s so enchanting that she gets three men to fall for her—an impressive feat even by princess standards. But feistiness isn’t even the main quality going for her; only too familiar with the feeling of being an outcast, this gypsy woman is easily one of Disney’s most empathetic characters, showing kindness to those who are otherwise shunned by society. For much of the film, she is the only person in Paris brave enough to openly defy Judge Frollo’s cruelty, criticizing his treatment of the gypsy people and standing up for Quasimodo when he’s humiliated by the entire Feast of Fools crowd. The ideal mix of a kind heart with a fiery spirit, Esmeralda is an admirable character and a symbol of justice for courageous girls who are always willing to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves!
4) Megara (Hercules)
Megara. My friends call me Meg. At least they would if I had any friends. – Megara to Hercules
Can you say sassy? The love interest to the heroic title character of Hercules, Megara is just about one of the sassiest characters in the Disney canon. Established as independent and snarky from her first appearance on screen, this Greek beauty is not your ordinary damsel in distress, but in fact a multilayered character with a quick wit and a free spirit. Well, as free as she can be under her circumstances, anyway. Meg doesn’t exactly have the most romantic backstory, having been scorned by men enough times to make her skeptical and dismissive of love before she meets her god-turned-mortal soulmate. Her determination to hide her past and guard her heart behind a mask of cynicism, far from portraying her as cold and bitter, makes her real and relatable. What woman doesn’t know the pain of having her heart broken, right? Still, Meg proves that she hasn’t yet given up on love entirely when she bravely sacrifices herself to save Hercules, which in a way may be the most heroic act in the film, as it allows him to save Olympus from Hades and ultimately have his godhood restored. A soft heart hidden beneath a tough shell, Meg is as strong in spirit as she is sassy in wit and is another great character among Disney’s non-princess heroines!
5) Nala (The Lion King)
He’s holding back, he’s hiding. But what, I can’t decide. Why won’t he be the king I know he is, the king I see inside? – Nala about Simba in “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?“
Who says awesome female characters have to be human? Nala from The Lion King would certainly disagree! Strong and clever since she was a cub, this lovely lioness is mature, persistent, and highly responsible, never passing up the chance to encourage her best friend’s qualities while defending her own. She acts as Simba’s closest confidante in their childhood and as his moral compass after their reunion as adults; when he’s long given up on his past life, Nala is the one who finds him and urges him to return to Pride Rock to assume his rightful place as king. And yes, Rafiki may have been the one to knock that final bit of sense into him, but would Simba ever have considered going home in the first place without the support of his childhood friend? Probably not! With a spirit as fierce as her roar, Nala is among the bravest of Pride Rock’s lionesses and a venerable addition to Disney’s unofficial royals thanks to her position as Queen of the Pride Lands!
Who are your favorite non-princess Disney heroines? Any other of Disney’s awesome female characters you would add to this list?
Happy Women’s Day! Because face it, world: you couldn’t exist without us. March has been designated National Women’s History Month, so to continue the theme of celebrating women on my blog, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite female characters ever! There are tons of amazing characters to choose from, of course; it was quite a challenge just to narrow the list down to fit in one blog post!
So to celebrate Women’s Day, here are six awesome female characters that I believe every girl can look up to as a potential role model. Enjoy, and keep being awesome, ladies!
Note: I was originally going to include a couple of my favorite Disney princesses in this list, but the post was already becoming too long. Instead, they’ll be the subject of another post coming soon!
1) Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series)
Hands down, Hermione Granger is my favorite female character ever written. Growing up reading all seven Harry Potter books, I witnessed this beloved character’s transformation from a naïve know-it-all girl to a brave and intelligent young woman. I always admired Hermione for how much she loved reading, and even more so for how skillful she was at applying her knowledge to real-world situations. Her brains and dedication to her studies may have qualified her for Ravenclaw, but her courage and determination prove she was always a Gryffindor at heart! And let’s be honest: this girl was the real hero of the story all along. Do you think Harry and his friends could have accomplished as much as they did throughout the series if Hermione didn’t read so much? It just goes to show: never underestimate the value of intelligence and a good education, because they’re the most powerful tools to save the world!
2) Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)
The heroine of Pride and Prejudice is Elizabeth Bennet. She is one of the greatest and most complex characters ever written, not that you would know.
– Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail (1998)
After finally reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time last year, I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, thanks in no small part to the fascinating complexity of its female protagonist. Elizabeth Bennet is a remarkable character who, like the author who created her, could easily be seen as very much ahead of her time. While many of the women around her are inclined to marry for convenience (her best friend included), Elizabeth is determined to marry for love. She is clever and quick-witted in conversation without compromising her integrity to impress anyone, which wins her the favor of her proud-yet-good-natured soulmate, Mr. Darcy. Lizzy is observant enough to make quick analyses of people’s characters, yet ultimately proves her real intelligence by overcoming the prejudice that almost costs her true love and a lifetime of happiness.
Smart yet proud, charming yet headstrong, idealistic about love yet critical about people, Elizabeth Bennet is the epitome of a multidimensional character and a powerful role model for women even today. So to all the clever young ladies who can relate, never feel like you don’t deserve to be appreciated for your intelligence. Keep on channeling the Elizabeth Bennet in you, and you may find your Mr. Darcy is just around the corner!
3) Juliet Capulet (Romeo & Juliet)
This may seem a strange choice to some, but hear me out. First of all, no, I am not condoning teen suicide nor the total abandonment of family in favor of romance. I know Romeo and Juliet are often criticized as a couple of stupid kids who get six people killed in four days (which is so untrue it’s not even funny), but I’m not trying to praise their totally normal recklessness or their totally justified attempts to break out of a broken system. No, what I really find so admirable about Juliet is her determination to take control of her life in the face of an overbearing patriarchal society.
Remember that Romeo & Juliet takes place during a time when men literally controlled everything, including the women in their lives, which really makes Juliet’s triumphs all the more inspiring. Her family is eager to have her married at the age of thirteen, a thought that has barely even crossed her mind once before the night of the Capulet Ball. She politely agrees to consider Paris as a potential husband while cleverly avoiding committing to him. When it becomes clear she won’t be able to break the rules that bind her to marriage, she bends them to her own wishes by choosing love (Romeo) over convenience (Paris). She handles the aftermath of Tybalt’s death with a much clearer head than Romeo (who at one point tries to stab himself out of guilt), sacrifices her social status and security for love and freedom, and defies the fear that would send her back to her unfulfilling life by (painfully) following her beloved into eternity. Say what you will about Juliet and her Romeo, but you have to admit this girl is a fighter to the very end, a woman who knows exactly what she wants and who will do whatever it takes to have the final say on how she lives her life.
Of course, if you want to see this taken a step further, you should check out the anime series Romeo x Juliet, in which a 16-year-old Juliet Capulet leads a revolution and masquerades as a sword-wielding vigilante known as the Red Whirlwind. Now that’s a strong woman!
Juliet, rightful ruler of Neo Verona, prepares to lead the Capulet rebellion against the evil Prince Montague (Romeo x Juliet , 2007)
4) Jo March (Little Women)
Another book I finally got around to reading last year is Little Women, a recommendation from my mother that I absolutely loved. She told me going in that I would strongly identify with Jo, and being a tomboyish bookworm and writer, it didn’t take me long to see why.
At the age of fifteen in 1800s America, Josephine March is a classic example of a girl who refuses to conform to the expectations society has of her. While her sisters live up to a more feminine image, Jo proves herself independent by constantly rebelling against the limitations placed on women. She reads books incessantly, writes and publishes stories, assumes the male roles in the plays she composes, and openly dismisses the idea of romance in favor of holding her family together. She may not embody the ideals of every woman today, but (at least in the first books of the series) Jo does serve as a model of the independent spirit that all women potentially have inside them!
5) Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games trilogy)
I’ve watched all four Hunger Games movies and recently finished reading the first book in the trilogy, and I have to say that I admired the story’s protagonist from start to finish. Forced to endure a lifetime of hardship and more than one battle to the death from the age of sixteen, Katniss Everdeen is an embodiment of strength, tenacity, and survivalist cunning, not to mention the lengths one will go to for the love of family. After losing her father to a mining accident and watching her mother fade away into depression, this girl took on the role of head of her household and sole provider for her family at the age of eleven and shouldered that responsibility through her entire teenage life. That’s not an easy feat for anyone, especially someone who has to survive two Hunger Games and a revolution along the way. Still, Katniss is a fighter all the way to the end of the story, and stands as a symbol for girls everywhere to never give up on defending what they believe in!
6) Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Heck yeah, I’ll say it: I loved Mad Max: Fury Road! Who didn’t, right? Remember how everyone was gushing about it two years ago and it took home six Academy Awards out of ten nominations? It’s already a great movie for its incredible action sequences and wildly thrilling screenplay, but what really made the story so enjoyable for me was the sheer awesomeness of its main character, Imperator Furiosa.
Intent on rescuing the Five Wives of the film’s villain, Immortan Joe, Furiosa sets off on a daring quest across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to deliver them to a promised sanctuary (while Max, in his usual fashion, ends up coming along for the ride). This hardcore woman drives a war rig through the desert, uses great resourcefulness to evade her pursuers, and fights off countless enemies with an impressive arsenal of weapons. Oh, and she does it all with a prosthetic arm. With her endless bravery and cleverness, Imperator Furiosa is a model of strength and skill for women and people with disabilities alike. It doesn’t get more badass than that!
Who are the female characters you most admire? What other fictional female role models would you add to this list?
Last year, I shared a post about the lessons I’ve learned from my mother and how they inspire my writing. Today, I’d like to honor my other greatest role model with the most important lessons he’s taught me and how I apply them to my fiction. My family has played a large role in my life choices as well as my creativity, and much of that is thanks to the wisest man I know: my father!
So this week, I’d like to dedicate my creative writing post to the man who lovingly raised me by sharing three of my favorite lessons from him that inspire my stories. Enjoy, and thanks for the inspiration, Dad!
1) Real men respect women.
There’s a lot of debate around the question of what constitutes “being a man”. Some people measure masculinity through physical strength, others through intelligence or courage, and still others through power or wealth. Many even claim that the only requirement to make a man is a Y chromosome. My dad, however, seems to have his own idea of what it means to be a man. He’s not a big fan of sports (unless you count the tennis game in Wii Sports), he values wisdom coming from anyone, and he considers people who show off their wealth petty and obnoxious. In truth, the only men I’ve ever heard him call “not real men” are those accused of mistreating women.
If I learned anything from my dad, it’s that a real man knows his worth shouldn’t be measured by the power he can exert over women, but by how well he thrives when on equal footing with them. My whole life, my father was the only man in the house (even most of our pets were female!), yet from the respectful way he always treated his wife and daughters, I know any brothers I might have had growing up would be just as chivalrous today. That’s why the male heroes in my stories are always gentlemen who treat their female peers as equals and never look down on them in any way (the same can’t always be said for the villains). It’s a lesson my dad has been teaching me for as long as I can remember, and one I continue to work into my fiction to this day. If I expect to be treated decently by the men in my life, my heroines must demand no less from the men in theirs!
2) Whatever you do in life, strive to be happy.
One piece of advice my dad always gave me and my sisters was to “be happy”. That may sound vague, but what he really meant was that we should always make choices that lead to a positive and fulfilling life, in every possible aspect. Pursue a career in something you love doing. Marry a person – not “man”, “person” – who loves and respects you. Avoid people and situations that make you miserable. Tackle the problems you can solve and let go of the ones you can’t. In a nutshell, every decision must be made with a single clear goal in mind: being a happier person.
So I’ve tried to make choices that benefit my happiness. I’ve pursued writing and science because I love both. I’m in a relationship with someone who makes me laugh and who treats me like royalty. I work hard for the things I want and try to get past the things that make me unhappy (hard as it is much of the time). And I apply the same lesson to my stories: I give my characters clear ideas of what they want in life and the courage to jump through every hoop imaginable to get it. I once wrote a protagonist who was ready to throw everything else in her life away for the one thing she desired. Why? Because she knew it was the only thing that would make her happy.
As a writer, I’ve come to realize my father has essentially been telling me to be the heroine of my own comedy. And as long as I’m willing to pursue happiness above all else, my characters will continue to do the same.
3) A woman’s father is the most important male figure in her life.
Every girl, no matter how many strong women surround her, still needs a man in her life to serve as an example of what she should expect from all the other men she ever meets. Brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and even male friends can provide some insight, but no man is more influential in a woman’s life than her father. He’s the man who raised her, who watched her grow up, who was always there for her (or in many cases, wasn’t). He’s the first man who ever loved her and the only one guaranteed to love her forever. How can any other man hope to compare?
Princess Merida sharing a laugh with her father, King Fergus (Brave, 2012)
More often than not, the way a girl interacts with her father growing up will set the standard for how she interacts with men throughout her adult life. The relationship I have with my dad is one of my most valuable family ties because he’s more than just a cool dad to me; he’s a mentor and a friend. Our bond has made me the woman I am today and has served as inspiration for several father-daughter relationships in my fiction, and his wisdom continues to guide me and influence my stories about family. I’ve learned much from my mother and sisters, but my connection with my father will always be exceptional!
What about you? Have you ever been creatively inspired by your father’s lessons? What sorts of stories or poetry has he inspired?
Today’s post is dedicated to my father, whose love and lessons have always been a wonderful inspiration to me. Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!