Eliminating Additional Extras V and VI
By Annette Rey
Writers should strive for knowledge wherever it leads, and work hard to apply that knowledge. The search can be fun, just as writing can be fun. When you have the tools, the job is made easier.
So, let’s jump into the final post of this series and examine what publishers do NOT want to see in our work.
In our search to cut superfluous words, we will cover circumlocution and repetition. Circumlocution is defined as the use of unnecessarily large numbers of words to express an idea, evasion in speech, to talk around the subject. Repetition is the act of repeating.
Listen to just about any politician speak. She can hold the television screen for minutes, being very wordy, and say nothing of any meaning. When she has finished, you have forgotten the question! It seems most politicians use words to avoid giving clear answers – as in the definition of circumlocution: evasion in speech.
Attend a business conference and listen to the speakers. It seems nine out of ten are windbags, and not the least entertaining. The use of extra words only serves to lose your audience, in this case, our readers. We don’t want that, right?
And repetition can be excellent in writing when you want to emphasize a point, create drama, make a memorable point. But repetition can be overused and that is what we should be concerned with.
Here’s my imaginary (but, oh, so real) politician: “As far as the Bochos goes…we’re not doing nothing about it. We met just yesterday. The state of affairs there, we have a plan. Bochos is on our map.” First, I don’t think there is such a place as Bochos, I made that up. But the double-negative, I did not. The circumlocution is common in politician-speak. You have recognized it before. Now you have the name for it.
How about a car advertisement? “Luxury within and without. Cruise Control. Temperature controlled environment. Latest upgrades, now standard, on the Zemi180.” This seems rather repetitious and choppy when this could be said concisely: “The luxurious Zemi180 comes equipped with upgrades such as Cruise Control and cabin temperature control.” The second sentence is one word shorter, and is smoother and more direct.
You can improve your writing by studying different facets of what constitutes a good sentence. Writing this series on redundancies sharpened my awareness. I have actually caught myself about to insert a word that really wasn’t necessary. For instance, in the last sentence in the above paragraph, I was going to end the sentence this way: and flows more smoothly and is more direct (eight words). That would have been wordy (as opposed to six words) and would have repeated the words more and and.
I have benefited from writing these articles and studying Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney. That tells me studying and writing would do the same for you. This works into my belief there is no such thing as writer’s block, that if you have the knowledge and expertise, the writing will flow.
Open your mind to try the methods I lay out and see if perfecting your writing skill makes a difference in your flow of thought and words.
Do you have some exercises to share?