Needless Words

  1. Omit needless words.
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 sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
Many expressions in common use violate this principle.
the question as to whether                       vs.           whether (the question whether)
there is no doubt but that                         vs.           no doubt (doubtless)
used for fuel purposes                             vs.           used for fuel
he is a man who                                       vs.           he
in a hasty manner                                    vs.           hastily
(The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White Jr., Principles of Composition page 23)


Yes, we are all guilty of this. We writers like our words, but sometimes we spill so many onto the page that we lose our reader in a massive flood of verbiage that confounds them at worst, and at best weakens what we have to say.

I once came across a writer whose stories where interesting, or they would have been. You see, he insisted on using every word in the dictionary. I mean seriously, do you have to spend an entire descriptive paragraph on an item that could easily be described in one word? That word was camouflage, by the way.

His writing was beautiful, but it was so bogged down with extra words that if you managed to make it to the end of the paragraph, you could not remember the first line.


About Stacy Bender

Author of Ursa Kane and the Sav'ine series.
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