Posts tagged ‘flabby writing’

August 2, 2011

Hunting Down the Pleonasm

Allan Guthrie prepared this list of guidelines in 2004 for some people at Adventure Books of Seattle. While generally intended for fiction writers, it contains valuable tips for anyone who puts finger to keypad. Analysts/associates who have worked with me will find at least a couple of these rules familiar; I try to apply them to all my editing work and consider them to be axiomatic. (And while many analysts/associates have kindly nodded their heads in polite agreement while I tried to convince them likewise, they generally preferred to leave it to me to wrestle their wild prose into compliance!)  Here’s a link to the entire article.

For quick reference, two of the “rules” I actively enforce are:

1: Avoid pleonasms. A pleonasm is a word or phrase that can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, in “Hunting Down The Pleonasm”, ‘down’ is pleonastic. Cut it and the meaning of the sentence does not alter. Many words are used pleonastically: ‘just’, ‘that’ and ‘actually’ are three frequently-seen culprits, and phrases like ‘more or less’ and ‘in any shape or form’ are redundant.
8: Show, don’t tell. Much vaunted advice, yet rarely heeded. Is your preferred reader intelligent? Yes? Then treat them accordingly. If you want to engage your readers, don’t explain everything to them. Show them what’s happening and allow their intelligence to do the rest. (My comment: I find this especially true when analysts devote all kinds of verbiage to where a figure is found on a page, what it contains, etc. A little of this is okay, sure, but hello?, we can see the figure, which of course has been properly labelled, and we get what it shows, so thanks for the visual … you don’t need to write a lot more about it!)

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