Friday, July 10, 2009

Elements of Style: Hackneyed and Redundant Words II

In the Elements of Style Series, I relay helpful hints for good writing from the classic book, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

In my last Elements of Style post, I highlighted five words that Strunk and White tell us to avoid using on account of being redundant or bland. This post highlights five more.

Line (as in along these lines): This phrase is overused to the point that a "writer who aims at freshness or originality had better discard it entirely."

Nature: Strunk and White call this word "often simply redundant." They also point out that using the word to describe habitat or the outdoors lacks specificity. If you enjoy nature, it's better writing to say what precisely you enjoy about it. Do you like the trees, the bees or the cute chipmunks?

System: Writers often use this word when they don't need it. A Strunk and White example: "The dormatory system" can be replaced by "dormatories."

Student body: This expression means nothing more than "students." Use fewer words to be more direct.

Very: Strunk and White tell to use this word sparingly. If you mean to say very good, write supurb. If you mean to write very supurb, write exceptional. Sometimes, just writing good is just as effective.

Of course, these words have their uses, but these uses often lead to writing that lacks zest. If you want clear and crisp writing, revise these words out of your essays.

The next installment of the Elements of Style Series will appear on this blog on Friday, 17 July 2009. I will continue this series each Friday until I run out of interesting topics in grammar, style and writing. Next week, we'll have a fabulous twist on the Elements of Style series. My beautiful wife, Shanna, will be sharing some tips from her elements of style.

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