“Clutter is the disease of American writing,” says William Zinsser in the classic text On Writing Well. “We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills, and meaningless jargon.”
Because we certainly don’t want to strangle our readers, writing clearly and directly should be one of our goals. We can cure the disease of clutter (at least in our own essays, memos, and reports) by following a simple rule: don’t waste words. When revising and editing our writing, we should strive to cut out any language that is vague, repetitious, or pretentious. In other words, let’s get to the point.
Here are five tips for cutting the clutter.
2. Likewise, try to reduce phrases to single words:
Wordy: The clown at the end of the line tried to sweep up the spotlight.
Revised: The last clown tried to sweep up the spotlight.
3. Avoid There is, There are, and There were as sentence openers when There adds nothing to the meaning of a sentence:
Wordy: There is a prize in every box of Quacko cereal.
Revised: A prize is in every box of Quacko cereal.
Wordy: There are two security guards at the gate.
Revised: Two security guards stand at the gate.
4. Don’t overwork very, really, totally, and other modifiers that add little or nothing to the meaning of a sentence.
Wordy: By the time she got home, Merdine was very tired.
Revised: By the time she got home, Merdine was exhausted.
Wordy: She was also really hungry.
Revised: She was also hungry.
5. Wherever possible, replace redundant expressions (that is, phrases that use more words than necessary to make a point) with precise words. Remember: needless words are those that add nothing (or nothing significant) to the meaning of our writing. They tend to bore the reader and distract from our ideas. So let’s cut them out!
|at this point in time||now|
|by means of||by|
|green in color||green|
|in the event that||if|
|oval in shape||oval|
|the reason is because||because|