Wednesday, May 9, 2012

STYLE - WORDY TO CONCISE


Posted by Linda

Worditis, a tendency to ramble, is the biggest problem with style. Don’t Let Your Participles Dangle in Public, by M. Kay duPont, corrects the most common worditis problems in Chapter 5. Granted, the chapter is dedicated to professional letter writing, but it applies to all writers.

I write mostly non-fiction and sometimes confuse the readers with a wordy explanation. My critique group asks, “What does that mean?” After I verbally explain, they suggest, “Write what you just said.”

The first chapter suggestion is to be natural and “Write the way you speak.” Simple, right? Not really. Written words tend to become formal rather than natural. Kay duPont illustrated the point well when she revised the small printed, two-page Declaration of Independence to a short, one-page in her book.

The 67 word first sentence/paragraph says:

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare causes which impel them to the separation.”

She makes it a 17 word sentence: “Sometimes we have to break ties with those who taught us and strike out on our own.”

At times, authors become wordy. If I’m quoting a resource I may say “(insert name) is of the opinion that” when I could say “(insert name) thinks.”

She also gives a list of writing redundancies. Remember last week’s “free gift?” Here are a few examples where the words in parentheses could be eliminated:

(adhesive) tape
8:00 a.m. (in the morning)
(absolute) guarantee
(close) proximity
for (a period of) 10 days
forever (and ever)
(in order) to
(necessary) requirements
(true) fact
(twelve o’clock) noon or midnight

Can you reread your manuscript and condense as duPont has done? Try it.
 

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