The Write Words
by Stuart Aken
These posts look at language use for writers. It’s easy for us to fall into bad habits; using redundancies, applying tautology, and employing clichés. Adverbs come easily, but is the verb you’re using the best for the piece? My suggestions here are the opinion of one writer: writing rules are guidelines rather than absolutes, so use your experience and judgment to determine how best to enhance your prose.
Plain-Language Alternatives for Wordy Phrases: some writers, especially those new to the craft, use more words than necessary. We can often substitute a single word for a phrase.
With the exception of: Sounds important, doesn’t it? Or, maybe it really sounds pompous? All this phrase means is ‘except’, and a creative writer is well-advised to use the single word.
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 because of their original and effective ability to describe a situation or quality in apposite terms. Their use should be sparing: in dialogue, they’re fine, providing the speaker would use them. They’re words or expressions we’ve all encountered more times than…Here, I might use a cliché to illustrate a cliché.
Like taking candy from a kid: We all know this expression is a way of saying something was easy to do. For most readers, it carries a subtext that suggests the action was not only simple, but underhand and maybe even cruel. So, if you’re intention is to show an action as simple, without that underlying message of unpleasantness, it’s probably best to use the single words, ‘easy’, ‘simple’, ‘straightforward’
Redundancies are words or phrases that serve 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.
Cease and desist: a phrase that means ‘stop’. And I think it wise for a writer to cease and desist using an expression like ‘cease and desist’ and use ‘stop’ instead. Don’t you?
About 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 read Stuart’s “The Write Words” column on the 3rd Friday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.