Editing Strategies: Avoid Vague Words

As almost all teenagers know, words can merely fill space rather than specify or refine meaning: Ask a teenager, “Where did you go?”  He’ll tell you, “Out.”  Then ask, “What did you do?”  You know the answer. “Nothing.”  Often, teenagers do not really want to answer their parents, but they have to say something, utter some words.  Ergo, vague words.

Take the following sentence as an example of vague wording:  Poor driving conditions caused the accident. What kind of accident was it?  What are the poor driving conditions?  Possible answers abound, from rain to sleet to snow to fog to crowded roads to a combination of conditions listed.  If five people read the sentence, they would probably give five different answers for what poor driving conditions are.  The purpose of editing is to make it such that all five people would think of the same conditions.  For instance:  The heavy snowstorm caused Jane to crash her car into the center divider of the highway.

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