Thursday, July 30, 2015

Prose: economy class

If one reads anything about improving one's writing one will quickly run into the fundamental tenant of good writing: economy of prose. Do not use more words than are absolutely necessary. Do not use a bigger word when a smaller one will do. Do not use extra words. Cut out everything that is superfluous and then do it again.

This is very good advice, and, like all writing advice, it never fails to irritate me.

I get a bit defensive.

I get a bit defensive because I like to say things like "I get a bit defensive" instead of "I get defensive". I get a tad, just, um, the tiniest smidgen defensive because I love words like "um". Although, come to think of it, what big time author would get all worked up about a tiny wee little word like "um"?

Most of them.

Fortunately I have a comeback. It's sort of my go-to comeback. It's very sophisticated. It goes like this:

They're all a bunch of hypocrites!

All the prose you will ever read is 99 percent superfluous ornamentation. There are a million ways to justify and defend every word every author writes, especially when it comes to nuance of feeling or to complexity of concept, but that's all just prevaricating. 

Almost nothing needs to be written. Nearly every essay, blog post, magazine article, and book you ever read could be done, in it's basics of its imparted information, in one hundredth the words. The 99 percent of the other words are just there like pickling juices. They are there to soak you in the relatively paltry amount of content. They are there to convince you that that little one percent was worth your time.

Or we can put it another way. The tiny bit of actual content that is there in writing, most of the time, is there just to let the writers, and the readers too, screw around.

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If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

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