If You’re Not Charles Dickens, This One’s For You

In moments filled with adversity for the writer who possesses a disposition altogether and entirely inclined towards penning with a style of excessive loquaciousness much to the chagrin of her surly critics, there exist a plethora of tactics available to the downtrodden authoress seeking to shorten her adjectives, adverbs, and so on, despite the fact that this is an insult of the most incredulous kind for someone who not only knows oodles of fabulous phrases, but possesses a knack for using them with dexterity and poise.

Geez, you may be thinking.

Most people seeing that sentence would get exhausted simply looking at its length. But don’t be too quick to judge; many of us, especially those who grew up reading Dickens, Austen, and Steinbeck, might not only enjoy this style, but could quite possibly prefer to write this way in their own works also. I’m preaching to myself here when I say that this style is not only excessive, but it’s honestly…not good?

Hear me out.

The “less is more” mantra truly applies to writing. Communicating a message well has never depended on it being long, wordy, or adjective-filled. In academic writing, news writing, and nearly all types of writing, save poetry and prose perhaps, in order for something to be communicated well, it must be expressed clearly.

Don’t panic, my fellow wordy writers. Writing concisely is not the same as writing without voice. Rather, seek to develop the voice through more succinct wording. I know that my writing style has drastically developed since entering college and being challenged with prompts that forced me to simplify my generally lengthy thoughts. But my writing has also improved exponentially. My writing is more clear, more enjoyable to readers, and altogether better than it was back when I insisted on using a Thesaurus for needless adjectives in every paper I wrote.

Let’s refer to the first heinously-long sentence of this blog as an example.

First, let’s identify the message of the sentence. Quick note: if you’re ever struggling to figure out what the kelp a sentence is trying to say, it DEFINITELY needs to be re-written. A handy exercise is to cross out any excessive words or irrelevant ideas and see which important ideas remain.

In moments filled with adversity for the writer who possesses a disposition altogether and entirely inclined towards penning with a style of excessive loquaciousness much to the chagrin of her surly critics, there exist a plethora of tactics available to the downtrodden authoress seeking to shorten her adjectives, adverbs, and so on, despite the fact that this an insult of the most incredulous kind for someone who not only knows oodles of fabulous phrases, but possesses a knack for using them with dexterity and poise.”

Using what words remain, it becomes clear that this sentence is trying to communicate that shorting and simplifying our writing can sometimes be difficult. But, hope remains, as there exist many “available tactics.”

Here are some possible revisions:

“For the writer who pens with a wordy style, there are a lot of ways for her to consolidate her phrasing.”

“Wordy writers often struggle to be more succinct; thankfully, there are several tactics available that help cut down sentences.”

“Wordy writers can shorten their sentences in many ways.”

Each of these sentences manages to communicate the same message, and they all do so in different ways. My voice still came through in each alternative, even though I was chopping down those SAT words I love so much.

By learning to “murder your darlings” as the saying goes, your writing will become more concise, be better received by your professors, and will generally improve. That’s a guarantee from a seasoned writing consultant, or your money back.

Written by Karoline

For more information on how to avoid wordiness and other writing subjects, check out our Avoiding Wordiness handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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