Unnecessary Words

I use too many words.

It’s a bad habit that I’ve picked up along the way of being a writer; the unstated need to fill such and such pages for a work to be worthwhile. Although the short story is an American phenomenon, I still lose sight of the truth that something good and valuable can be short. Although annoying, I suppose that my habit of filling my sentences with glowing adjectives and adverbs has served me well. After all, I doubt if my plump blog posts or my book would be possible if I hadn’t raided my dictionary for words like “Beauteous” and “Scintillating”.

The man who uses too many words to say something that could be told more easily with fewer words is simply a man in love with his language, the grammar of his language, and words.

I use my words like a salt shaker because in the end, I can’t think of anything more fun than a well placed string of words. A long sentence of gorgeous and extravagant words is as beautiful as a parade walking down main street This is why, to me, a day is “Beauteous”, and the sandwich I had for lunch is simply “Scintillating”.

I joke among my friends that I carefully choose my words like a child picks out a toy: which ever makes the most noise and has the most moving parts is my favorite.

My habit is really a bad one, however. I can’t keep it up for long. After all, a sentence, paragraph, or a whole book for that matter is no different than a engine, or a machine of some kind. A machine with fewer moving parts is a better machine not only because there are fewer parts to break and replace, but also because an engine with fewer pieces is a more efficient machine.

The same is true of books, stories, and sentences. Regardless of the temptations, use fewer words. Your readers will thank you, and you’ll like your own writing better yourself.

The meat and fire of writing is not shown in long strings of flowery adjectives and springy adverbs, but in the expressive nouns and living verbs that they modify. If in your writing you contain yourself primarily to the necessary words, to the important bits that you can’t live without, the nouns and verbs, I promise you will be a better writer.

I don’t write this to only the tellers of tales, but to writers of all sorts: to poets, to lyricists, to frazzled mothers scrabbling out a grocery list on the back of an envelope.

Fewer unnecessary words leads to a more direct narrative, and less confusion among all readers.

Of course, this whole post was a bit unnecessary. I could have said simply: “Use fewer words when writing. It’s better that way.”

But would that have been half as entertaining? 😉

One thought on “Unnecessary Words

  1. I do have to tell you, when I’m reading, if someone has made simple sentence into a work of art…and there’s more than 1 of these sentences, and they go on FOREVER talking about the look, feel, and smell of a field of wild flowers…and there’s really no point – a war isn’t going to take place in that field, nothing significant is going to happen at that location, the character is simply taking a walk…

    I’m gone. I don’t care about the bees pollinating. Unless the character is going to get stung and have an allergic reaction – now that’s action.

    I don’t have patience for that type of reading. You read a chapter and all you know is the main character enjoys their walks. And at some point, big words, after a while – my brain begins to stumble over them, until I come across a word I don’t know… what does that word mean? I suppose I should look it up online dictionary. (nope, too lazy) and I’m gone.

    Sadly, I am a lazy reader. I admit it. And in the blogging world…I’m sure there are tons of others. And if you are trying to reach the masses, blog posts are supposed to be short. (As well as comments, and you can see how I’ve failed there. 🙂 hahah)


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