6.18.2020

Busy, Busy

One camp of writers likes to pour out their words in a torrent. This style is not due to speed. Rather, these authors like to cram a lot of words into every sentence. I won’t guess the cause, such as loving their late 19th-century British literature course, but I do know the impulse adds a lot of verbiage. In numerous cases, more words seem to be added merely because a sentence doesn’t feel full enough.

The noodling is most apparent in cases where a phrase is gratuitous. Let’s take: “She decided she’d better get going. She opened up the suite’s door and stepped into the hallway.” Everyone knows you have to open a door to reach a hallway. In this case, we know that she is leaving. So “opened up the suite’s door and” can be skipped. It’s short and quick, I know, but all we need to know is: “She stepped into the hallway.”

Or look at a qualifying phrase that makes only apparent sense. “Trying to make good use of his time, Harold pulled his digital camera out of his fanny pack.” Isn’t it a common assumption that anyone tries to make the best use of their time?  Why is “Trying to make good use of his time” needed at all?

One type of addition involves clarification of material that in most cases is obvious. Let’s take the sentence: “With the proper dose, these pills will take the edge off.” That seems fine, until you consider that most readers assume that the proper dose is the amount a character will take. Don’t most of us read the label and take that dose? So it’s better to cut “With the proper dose.” Or look at: “She decided to stand up from the floor.” If the character is already indoors, what else would she be sitting on? There is no need for “from the floor.”

Or take even a two-word case:“He needed to earn the higher income from work that a big city provides.” As far as I’m aware, most people don’t move to big cities to earn income from any other source, like a trust fund. Most income is derived from work, so “from work” is not needed. Sure, it’s only two words, but when you add up sentence after sentence laden with them, that’s a lot of reading time wasted.

Exercise: A common villain in this puppet show involves a lead character’s eyes. For example, “He watched Kate as she rounded the corner.” You don’t need the character to watch unless they will immediately thereafter perform an act as a consequence of watching. If the character is the scene’s point of view, we assume he is watching. It’s just “Kate rounded the corner.”

“All that we know is nothing, we are merely crammed wastepaper baskets, unless we are in touch with that which laughs at all our knowing.”
—D. H. Lawrence

Copyright @ 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.