I’ve had a few requests lately to explain how to edit a book once the first draft is done. I’ve started a long and exhaustive post on just that, but it’s not finished, plus Maureen already wrote about it. In the meantime David Louis Edelman has a really useful ten-point guide to line editing:
1. Eliminate unnecessary modifiers. When I say unnecessary modifiers, I’m talking about both “weasel” words that lessen the impact of your prose and useless modifiers that emphasize for no reason. Words like possibly, simply, really, totally, very, supposedly, seriously, terribly, allegedly, utterly, sort of, kind of, usually, extremely, almost, mostly, practically, probably, and quite. Why write “It was quite hot out that day” or “It was extremely hot that day” when the sentence “It was hot that day” accomplishes the same thing? The more clutter you can get rid of, the better your sentences will be.
What he said. Add “actually” and “just” and “though” to that list. But remember there are always exceptions. Like many of those words are dead useful in dialogue for conveying dithering etc. For example:
“Actually, I was totally going to set the zombies on the unicorns. Seriously I was! But I was possibly maybe almost kind of sort of distracted by the troll invasion. They’re really big!”
Edelman’s list—like all such lists—is a guide not a set of rules.