I constantly hear here the mantra, "Get rid of ALL words that aren't needed", but I don't think I've ever seen an example of how to do that, or what to look for.
An author asked me to give examples of how to restructure sentences. (If they were inclined to sarcasm they might have said, "Stop telling me, show me!" :-)
In truth, I had no idea how I did it. I selected some examples from their draft that looked like candidates for eliminating glue words, or just felt awkward. (I am inclined to sarcasm, and I had labelled some of them as 'atrocities'.)
I recorded my step-by-step thought processes as I reworked these examples. It was illuminating.
* I started by breaking up (sometimes consecutive) sentence(s) into a vertical list of the smallest possible fragments.
* I kept subject-verb(-objects) together, but sometimes needed to add implied subjects and/or verbs back in.
* I deleted conjunctions, articles, and words introducing descriptive phrases (e.g. as, like, who).
* I kept prepositions with their objects, but sometimes found one simple one word that could replace a phrase.
* I suppose I mentally put pronouns in brackets as potential targets as well
* I looked for repeated words and tested ways of joining them most economically. (these were not examples of parallel structures being used for style purposes.)
* I looked for phrases with the same subject and tried joining those too.
* I started with subject-verb phrases and tested ways of adding the IDEAS CONTAINED in the descriptive phrases.
There were several different things I found in my reconstructed sentences.
- Some had been written with an introductory adverbial clause. I found several where longish word adverbial clause were not needed when the right 1 or 2 words were placed in their appropriate position. This usually resulted in a sentences which FLOWED much more smoothly, even if the word count was similar. One started as four phrases, each 2 to 4 words long, and ended as a free flowing sentence except for one 3 word parenthetic phrase.
- The process made it starkly apparent that the only problem with one example was the first word 'as' was unnecessary. (By definition ?) the subjects of both clauses were the same subject. The usual form is then subject at the start, and replace the subject with 'and' before the second clause. The sentence was a suitable candidate for not doing that, but replacing the initial verb with an '-ing' form. That form gets rid of the 'and' before the second clause as well. This sentence was 'suitable' because the action in the second clause would be completed before the action in the first. There's another benefit from using an '-ing' verb - it can be useful to give the reader a break in the middle of a series of sentences beginning with the same pronoun.
- By far the greatest cuts in excess words were achieved by not repeating the same ideas in different words in descriptive phrases. It seems much easier to see and then think 'I do not need to bring that in' than deciding 'that can be deleted because it's superfluous. That's probably because the best way of expressing the idea was selected, and is now in its best position.
I doubt I will go into that detail very often, but there are times I just know a segment of writing could be made to flow a bit more easily, but cannot see what should be changed. That's when I might decide to pull it all apart, rebuild it, and see what the new version feels like. I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE examples how others detect and go about getting rid of excess words when reviewing drafts.