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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hey! About those "UPs!"

Search for the word "up" in your copy. In a regular desk size dictionary that word can take up to 1/4 to 1/2 page all by itself because it has so many uses. All of the entries are perfectly correct in spoken language but in written language some of them are, well . . . a bit wordy. When you're editing your job is to find the ones that are:

1. Merely colloquial. Remove these or not depending on the voice you are trying to achieve.
2. Essential to your meaning. Leave them the way they are, of course.
3. The ones that are perfectly grammatical but not necessary (and therefore redundant). Remove these unless, of course, they are part of dialogue. For dialogue you want your "ups" to sound like the spoken language.

The way I test an "up" in written work is to remove it and see if the meaning changes. Examples:

"He had his secretary write up a report."

"She likes to dress up for about any occasion."

"He closes up his store promptly at six."

Assume you are not using the sentence as part of a dialogue. Which ones would you edit out? Why did you make that choice?

I'd love to see some more examples of how "up" is used in our language and how you'd handle them. That's what the comment feature in this blog is for. I figure we'll all start paying attention to how frequently we use "up" in our conversations. So call me up, dial me up, or write it up where you see the comments link below.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success at Learn more about her other authors' aids at She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at

1 comment:

Pee Wee said...

Hi Carolyn. I find "UPs!" very interesting. How many times I've caught myself using up and then deleting it, I can't remember. On the other hand here is one that can't be denied. "It's up to you."
I'm sure there are others but I just thought it interesting to see the difference.

This has me wondering about another word that could be in jeopardy. OUT. I use it all the time where I don't think it's necessary. "I'm going to print it out."

Anyway, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I'll be aware of the word "UP" from now on.

Pee Wee
Author of The Kahills of Willow Walk.

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