Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wasting Words

by CWK

Over the years this advice from William Strunk has haunted me, in the good way:

Strunk: “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 his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Many expressions in common use are space wasters. They add nothing to sentences. Here's my list of the most common needless space wasters:


the question as to whether/ better: whether (or the question whether)

there is no doubt but that/ better: no doubt (or doubtless)

used for fuel purposes/ better: used for fuel

he is a man who/ better: he

in a hasty manner/ better: hastily

this is a subject which/ better: this subject

His story is a strange one/ better: His story is strange.

Note: the expression “the fact that” should be purged from every sentence.

owing to the fact that/ better to say: since (because)

in spite of the fact that/ better to say: though (although)

call your attention to the fact that: better to say: remind you (notify you)

I was unaware of the fact that/ better to say: I did not know

Who is, which was, and the like are often superfluous.

His brother, who is a member of the same firm

His brother, a member of the same firm

Trafalgar, which was Nelson's last battle

Trafalgar, Nelson's last battle

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