Omit needless words

August 16, 2019 by Joshua
in Art

Those familiar with Strunk and White will recognize this post’s title. If you don’t know Elements of Style, I’m not going to explain it, but I recommend it.

I started compiling phrases with needless words. I’m sharing it here. I hope to make it longer.

Worst case scenario: Just “worst case.” “Scenario” is just a big word that adds no meaning.

Draw a line in the sand: Just “draw a line.” Where you draw it doesn’t matter.

The truth is that and It’s a fact that: In years of looking, I have yet to find a sentence with these phrases where removing them changed the meaning. “The truth is that the sky is blue” means “The sky is blue.” Variations include “The fact that it’s Friday. . .” means “That it’s Friday . . .”

Before you die: I think writers add “before you die” to add drama to lists like “100 movies to see before you die.” You can’t see them after you die so the phrase distracts without adding meaning.

End result: Why not just “result”?

Late to the party: Just “late.” The “party” is an affectation.

General public: No need for “general.”

Radio silence, as in “Sorry for the radio silence”: No need for “radio.”

Nothing short of, as in “The movie was nothing short of amazing.” Just: “The movie was amazing.” I think people think the extra words add to the adjective, but I fine they distract from their meaning, calling attention to them instead of what they say.

Really, as in “The food was really good.” Just: “The food was good.” Same comment as for nothing short of.

It was . . . who, as in “It was Josh who wrote . . .” Just: “Josh wrote . . .” Same with it was . . . that, as in “it was the car that made the noise.”

Make a positive change: how about “improve”?

I’ll try to come up with more.

My point is beyond a few examples anyway. It’s the spirit of the extra words.

My friend asked if the extra words annoyed me. “Annoy” isn’t the right word. I find the extra words distract from the meaning they’re supposed to convey. They feel to me like seeing a work of art behind glass or plastic. The glass before the Mona Lisa here doesn’t prevent you from seeing the art, but don’t you prefer without the glare?

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