Let’s cut to the chase Brevity is one cardinal principle stressed upon by Strunk and White in their remarkable little writing guide, The Elements of Style. To quote the relevant passage verbatim, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
“This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.”
Separate the grain from the chaff. Pare, pare, pare. And if there is nothing left at the end of it, it means you had nothing to say in the first place.
Inevitably this means no tautology. Why bother saying ‘two equal halves’ when halves are always two, and equal? That goes for ‘very beginning’, ‘honest truth’, ‘past experience’, ‘close proximity’, and ‘joint collaboration’ – where the adjective is redundant in every instance.
It also means no clichés! These are trite phrases or sayings that were fresh when first innovated but are now overused ad nauseam and exist as plain irritants.
George Orwell pointed out that (these days) prose consists less and less of words chosen for their meaning, and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen house – and that stale phrases mechanically repeated have dangerous political effects.
Most similes and proverbs are now trite, as are everyday utterances such as “What a pleasant surprise!” or “Have a nice day!” Even the muttered sarcastic comeback “To coin a phrase” would qualify. “Back to the drawing board”, “the thing is”, “put your best foot forward”, “it’s all Greek to me” – take your pick.
Since there was no getting away from them, people as far back as a century ago decided to have fun modifying them: “familiarity breeds attempt”, or just plain “breeds”; “where there’s a will there’s a relative”; “an onion a day keeps everyone away”.
In 21st-Century lingo a cliché would mercifully be an abbreviation: asap, gtg, ttyl, brb, lol or omg!
Let’s leave you with the line that holds the record for being the most used in the movies (heard at least once in 84 per cent of them since the 1930s): “Let’s get outta here!”.