When I was still studying, I diligently memorized new words and their meanings because I wanted to use highfalutin words in my writing. I thought they would make my work distinctive and memorable. Reading William Zinsser’s book, “On Writing Well, An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction” set me on the right and uncluttered path.
“Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds – the writer is always slightly behind,” Zinsser says. In the chapter on clutter, Zinsser describes how writers (me included) “drape prepositions routinely on verbs that don’t need them.” We say “free up” when we can simply say “free.” We write “at this moment in time” when we can say “now.”
He mentions a few among hundreds of words that we use to clutter our writing: numerous (many), facilitate (ease), individual (man or woman), sufficient (enough), implement (do), attempt (try).
Here are some very helpful tips from the author on how to deal with clutter:
- Be grateful for all the words you can throw away. Prune ruthlessly
- Examine and re-examine every word you use. Make sure they perform new and useful work
- Stay away from pompous, pretentious or faddish words
- Simplify, simplify!