IMG_0811The flossing police have arrived at our house. Why?  Well, just look at those teeth! My kids have never enjoyed flossing. It’s pesky, boring, and causes bits of icky stuff to fly out of your mouth, splatting the bathroom mirror and counter. (Actually, my son likes the gross factor of that last aspect.) But even that has lost its allure because they both currently have braces.  Flossing with braces is time-consuming. You have to hand thread the floss below and above the wire and around each and every bracket. But flossing is more important now than ever because tooth decay and discoloration are counterproductive to the nice clean, streamlined look we’re hoping for.

It’s kind of that way with writing too. Getting our stories to sparkle takes careful, dedicated flossing. So, how are you doing in that department? Do you need to call in the flossing police, or will these friendly flossing suggestions suffice?

Recognize the icky bits.  My early drafts are full of extraneous words including unnecessary adjectives and adverbs and an over abundance of helping verbs.  I also tend to overuse certain “icky” words.  “Indeed”, “very”, “really” and “but” tend to fall into this category. So, as I floss my stories, I keep a close lookout for these “icky bits”. Do you recognize your “icky bits”?  Great! Then get flossing.

Floss every nook and cranny.  As my children will attest, proper flossing is tedious (though well worth it).  Thorough editing also takes time. Don’t short change your story’s sparkle by rushing the process. Instead carefully examine and floss each sentence and paragraph until your writing is tight and streamlined.

Make flossing a habit. When my kids first started flossing with braces, their gums were irritated, but now that it’s a daily habit, it’s much easier. Likewise, flossing your stories can seem painful at first, especially if you are overly enamored by certain turns of phrase.  Once it’s a habit, however, you’ll find it is not only easier, but the icky bits are fewer and farther between.  Your smile, er, writing will quickly improve!

Listen to the hygienist (and dentist and orthodontist, too!).  Every six months, I take my kids (and their teeth) in for a proper cleaning.  Megan, our lovely dental hygienist, has known the kids since they were little and is a good assessor of their dental habits.  As she cleans their teeth, she lets them know where they are doing well and where they need improvement.  It seems they always need improvement with those pesky back molars.  Similarly, my stories are lucky enough to be scrutinized by a trusted, and sometimes brutally, though lovingly, honest set of dental experts, otherwise known as critique partners.  So my last bit of  “flossy” advice is to find one or two, or small group, of trusted writers who can critique your work and let you know where it needs extra flossing and where it shines!

Happy flossing all!


  1. Spot-on for me, because both flossings (the dental and the literary) are my least favorite tasks in their respective domains, and yet I feel better for having done them.

  2. I appreciate your analogy more so because I AM a Dental Hygienist! I floss my teeth every day. This will definitely remind me to floss my stories too! Don’t want to develop Plotitosis or Wordidontitis.

  3. Three of my four children had braces on their teeth! I remember how important it was for them to floss. As for my writing, I completely understand your comparison. I have great critique partners who help me keep my words “clean and shiny.” Thanks for your advice.

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