The Write Words
By Stuart Aken
These posts examine language use for writers. It’s easy to fall into bad habits; employing clichés, using redundancies and applying tautology. Adverbs come readily, but is that verb you’re using the best for the purpose? My suggestions here are only the opinion of one writer: rules for writing are often questionable, so use your experience and judgment to determine how you can best enhance your prose.
Redundancies are words or phrases serving no semantic purpose. In speech, they act as spacers, giving the speaker time to think. But in writing, except when representing natural conversation, they hamper the reader’s progress.
‘unanimous’ means all inclusive, so ‘completely’ is unnecessary here and any sentence would be better expressed using only ‘unanimous’.
Cliché: a stereotyped or hackneyed expression; a phrase, opinion or other element of language that’s so overused it no longer holds power. However, clichés come into being as the result of their original effective ability to describe a situation or quality. Their use should be sparing: in dialogue, they’re fine, providing the speaker would use them.
Garbage in, garbage out: This expression, usually applied to the world of computer input, means ‘if you input rubbish, you’ll get rubbish out as a result’.
‘Garbage in, garbage out, was Frank’s stock answer whenever the result of misapplied code resulted in an unexpected or garbled outcome.’ Maybe we could express this differently: ‘Whenever misapplied code caused an unexpected or garbled result, Frank would point out that inputting poor or inadequate coding inevitably led to a false or inadequate answer.’
Adverbs are as the word describes; an addition to a verb.
Utterly: A stronger verb always wins over an adverb propping up a weak verb.
‘To Norman, hedge mazes always appeared utterly hard.’ Apart from being clumsy, this could better be stated like this: ‘To Norman, hedge mazes seemed impenetrable.’
Meet the Author
Stuart Aken, born to a homeless, widowed artist, in a neighbour’s bed, describes himself as a romantic, open-minded, radical liberal. Raised by a creative, loving mother and a step-father who educated him in things natural and worldly, he had what he describes as an idyllic childhood. An author who refuses to be shackled by genre, he’s written romance, thrillers, sci-fi, humour, fantasy and an autobiographical, self-help memoir, aimed at sufferers from ME/CFS. His fiction is the only place he bends the truth and, after love, remains his raison d’être.
You can find his work on his website.
You can read Stuart's writing column the 3rd Friday here at Pandora's Box Gazette. Do you have any bad writing habits?