Thursday, March 13, 2008

Writing for Style: Be Concise

Writers who are careless of form (and the time of their readers) fail to notice that they are writing more words than are necessary to convey the proper meaning. Words are cheap but time is not and loose writing implies loose thinking.

"Clutter is the disease of American writing," says William Zinsser in his classic text, On Writing Well. "We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills, and meaningless jargon."

We can cure the disease of clutter (at least in our own compositions) by following a simple rule: don't waste words. When revising and editing, we should aim to cut out any language that is vague, repetitious, or pretentious.

Some phrases can be deleted completely:

all things being equal
all things considered
as a matter of fact
as far as I am concerned
at the end of the day
at the present time
due to the fact that
for all intents and purposes
for the most part
for the purpose of
in a manner of speaking
in my opinion
in the event of
in the final analysis
it seems that
the point that I am trying to make
type of
what I am trying to say
what I want to make clear

In other words, clear out the deadwood, be concise--and, for goodness' sake, get to the point. For more examples and Four Tips for Being Concise, go to Be Concise on the Writing Tips page of Moore Partners.

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