Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Lesson For The Week

During my weekly visit to Books- A- Million I purchased, Getting the Words Right: 39 Ways to Improve Your Writing, by Theodore A. Rees Cheney. This is a book no writer should be without. It covers ways to reduce jargon, rearrange sentences, paragraphs and whole chapters. Theodore provides insightful suggestions on how to develop one's writing style and improve diction with shorter more active words. Last, but not least, he allocates an entire section to limiting modifiers.

 Since learning and writing seem to be congruent processes, I’ve decided to share some snippets from the book in a series of posts.  In lesson number one I learned ,“Redundancy in writing” does not mean repetitiveness. It is a catch-all term for excessive and unnecessary words which can be eliminated from a sentence without changing its meaning. Although there are six forms of redundancies, for the sake of brevity, I will only touch on two which are most overused by writers.

1) Tautology-“Saying the same thing that’s already been said.” (Theodore's definition). See the following examples from his book:

Original: He falsely misrepresented the situation.

Misrepresent means to give a false account about something or someone. The word “falsely’ does not add anything to the sentence so it can be deleted.

Revised: He misrepresented the situation.

Original: Let us glance briefly at the facts.

Glance means to look at something for a second. The word “briefly” is excessive and unnecessary.

Revised: Let us glance at the facts.

2) Pleonasm- “While tautology is the error of saying essentially the same thing twice in the same sentence, pleonasm is the error of including extra words without changing either the meaning or the structure of a sentence. “ (Theodore).

Original: Both the prime minister and the vice admiral agreed that the time for negotiations had passed.
          
Since the prime minister and vice admiral are already listed, it is not necessary to add the word "both."

Revised: The prime minister and the vice admiral agreed that the time for negotiations had passed.

Original: For severe cases, doctors may give a shot of Cortisone to block the development of further spread and to provide relief from the symptoms.

“The development of” can be deleted from the sentence without changing its meaning.

Revised: For severe cases, doctors may give a shot of Cortisone to block further spread and to provide relief from the symptoms.

After reading the above section I found all kind of redundancies in my writing. I wondered how I could have missed such obvious mistakes. Am I the Lone Ranger here, or are any of you guilty of violating the above writing rules? I’d be interested to know what you think. Until next time, Happy writing