Words: More is not better
Wasted words: Added bonus, close c proximity, in actual fact, period of time, visible to the eye . . .
Last week, possibly even while you were reading about the example of verbosity I offered, I was reminded of something which is the very opposite. You don’t have to agree with the sentiment in this Ogden Nash “poem” but you must surely admire its simplicity and directness. Parsley is gharsley.
Obviously written during what I’m going to call his “kitchen garden” period, it displays succinctness matched by very few written oeuvres. A noun, a verb and an adjective was all it took.
If only Tolstoy could have matched that in War and Peace, he would have cut a long story short.
War and Peace, by the way, is not the longest book in the world. That “honour”, I believe, goes to A La
Recherche Du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust and is a book which should not be approached without ample medication. I would have exhausted myself just getting the pages all numbered.
Here now is an unnecessary but possibly interesting tangent: I appear to be using an awful lot of “inverted commas” this week and, for that, I can only “apologise”.
At least it’s not as bad as some people’s overuse of exclamation marks!!!!!!!! One does the job admirably but I have seen up to 13 in reputable publications! Now that the tangent is over and done with, I can focus on my real theme for today which is conciseness. All my teaching life I have tried to convince pupils that the best writers are those who say the most using the fewest possible words or, at least, eliminating those which are unnecessary or even stupid.
Our world is full of silly superfluous words. Consider the wasted words in the following: Added bonus, close proximity, fewer in number, in actual fact, large in size, on a daily basis, period of time, revert back, to tell you the honest truth, visible to the eye and 7am in the morning. I did consider putting each of those in “inverted commas” but chose “not to”!!!!!
In writing, as in decor, it’s a matter of culling the clutter. To pick on just one example, why don’t people just conclude instead of saying/writing “in conclusion” or, even worse, “finally, in conclusion”. This habit was beautifully sent up in Fred Dagg’s 21st speech which, near the end, offered: “Suffice it to say . . . ah . . . in conclusion and finally . . . ah. that I should conclude by . . . um . . . actually finally pointing out that Trev's . . . ah . . . gone from strength to strength . . . ah . . . strength to strength is . . . ah . . . more or less what Trev's gone . . . ah . . . from and to and . . . ah . . . suffice it to say at the present point in time . . . ah . . . that the very best of luck, Trev.” If you want to practise culling the clutter, that passage is a good place to start. Get it down to three words (“Good luck, Trev,”) and you’re well on the road to success. US presidents and presidential hopefuls have contributed some notable bloopers:
“Our nation must come together to unite.” (George WBush)
“It’s no exaggeration to say the undecideds could go one way or another.” (George H WBush)
“If we do not succeed, we run the risk of failure.” (Dan Quayle)
If it’s a song you’re writing, the same guidelines apply. And don’t fall into the trap of overdoing the repetition; here I’m thinking of “na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na”.
And finally, by way of concluding and finally finishing I would like to reveal that I have a plan for turning the Ogden Nash “poem” into a feature film. It won’t be a Hollywood blockbuster, of course. That would be silly. You don’t make epic movies about foliage. I can already hear the critics describing my oeuvre with exemplary conciseness as “a short film”.
Wasted words: Added bonus, close proximity, in actual fact, period of time, visible to the eye . . .