Brush off the tag-alongs.

I call them “tag-alongs.” They’re unnecessary words and phrases that spout the obvious, gum up sentences and chew up space. Here are a few examples:

1. The boy gripped a pencil in his hand.

Where else would he grip it? If he gripped it in his teeth, you’d say so.

The boy gripped the pencil.

2. Looking briefly at the bright sun, she blinked her eyes.

The sun is bright. If she blinked, she blinked her eyes.

Glancing at the sun, she blinked.

3. Her heart pounded in her chest.

She should hope her heart is in her chest. 

Her heart pounded.

4. As the bagpipes played “Carrickfergus,” tears streamed from his eyes.

Tears stream from the eyes. If it streams from the nose or mouth, it's unlikely to be tears.

As the bagpipes played “Carrickfergus,” he blotted his eyes with his shirtsleeve.

5. She thought to herself, “That cat needs a bath.”

Who else can you think to?

“That cat needs a bath,” she thought.

5. A crowd of people gathered near the stadium.

A crowd gathered near the stadium.

6. Hector Robles said his goal in the future is to be a winner on "Jeopardy."

A goal suggests "in the future." You can't have a goal "in the past."

Hector Robles' goal is to be a "Jeopardy" champion.

Hector Robles intends to be a "Jeopardy" champion.