Writing tips from the movies

SAGrader is designed to help students express their understanding of concepts through careful, precise writing. We’re not big fans of “fluff” writing that sounds good, but doesn’t actually say anything.

I call this writing to the point. The underlying goal is to remove any content that does not help define your main point in a unique way.

It’s similar to the system used by screenwriters. When you’re writing a script for a movie, each scene needs to contribute to the underlying theme of your film. If you can’t explain how a scene relates to the overall movie, cut it.

Use the same process for each word and sentence in your writing.

I recently read some of Ayn Rand’s editing notes for her first draft of The Fountainhead and she repeatedly criticized herself for using adjectives that don’t contribute something distinct to the noun.

I fall into this trap all the time. Often, I’ll end up using two adjectives to describe a noun that mean the same thing (“We need to keep our workplace clean and tidy.”).

Just stop it. It’s okay to reinforce your point. Repetition is a useful technique. But don’t add “filler” words and sentences just to take up space. It’s poor writing and less enjoyable to read.

  • shania