Presentation on theme: "Word clutter and readability. Word clutter Word clutter means using more words than necessary to convey a written message. Why is this bad? It wastes."— Presentation transcript:
Word clutter and readability
Word clutter Word clutter means using more words than necessary to convey a written message. Why is this bad? It wastes space, of course. But more than that, it makes a story harder to read, and more tedious to get through. Stories in the mass media that are hard to read don’t get read.
Word clutter Usually word clutter litters the first drafts of articles. When we go back to edit first drafts, often we can identify the clutter. Unfortunately, writers in a hurry sometimes don’t have time to revise. It’s up to editors to clear out the “verbal deadwood.”
Word clutter It takes years of experience to do a really efficient job at identifying word clutter. For example, the sentence above could be more efficient. How could we rewrite?
Word clutter We might say this: It takes years of experience to identify word clutter efficiently. It is possible, though, to catch word clutter offenders common in mass-media style writing. Below are some typical examples of word clutter in mass media writing.
Word clutter All of a sudden=suddenly. the morning, the evening. Just use a.m. or p.m. completely destroy. Destroy is complete. Otherwise, say damaged. Located. This word is usually not necessary. For example, “It was located downtown.” Just say “It was downtown.”
More word clutter Due to the fact that. Just say because. A total of. Usually this is not necessary, as are the words “in cash.” Example: “According to police, a total of $500 in cash was left at Cash Wise.” Just say “According to police, $500 was left at Cash Wise.”
More word clutter At the present time. Just say now. Asked if he.... Usually this clause is redundant. For example: “Asked if he plans to run for re-election, the senator responded, “I’ll run for re-election as long as the voters want me.”
Attributions Note that you don’t have to keep repeating “he said, she said” when it’s obvious who’s talking. Attributions should be in the same tense throughout the story, either present (“says”) or past (“said”). Past tense is often used for hard news story, present tense for features. Vary “said” with words like pointed out or added, if you’d like. Avoid the clumsy attributions “commented” or “stated.” Unless it truly was a formal statement.
Nominalizations This means taking a verb form and making a noun out of it. (What is a noun? A person, place or thing. What is a verb? An action word.) Mass media writing emphasizes people doing things, and favors active verbs. We want to avoid setting up nominalizations. Common nominalizations: made a study of, made an investigation of. Just say studied or investigated.
More word clutter Two twins, four quadruplets. twins, quadruplets. Exact replica. A replica is exact. Qualified expert. Why would an expert not be qualified? New record. A record is always new.
Jargon Party, parties, meaning people. This is law enforcement jargon often picked up by mass media. Facility also is jargon, and usually can be substituted with a more specific word. Example: “Police said two parties broke into the facility and stole six bottles of Captain Morgan rum.” Be specific: “Police said two people broke into the warehouse and stole six bottles of Captain Morgan rum.”
More extra words At its regular meeting (not their) is usually not necessary when referring to committees or boards. Example: “The Fargo City Commission at its regular meeting Tuesday declared a moratorium on bike path construction.” Just say “The Fargo City Commission Tuesday declared a moratorium on bike path construction.”
Time and date At and on are usually superfluous. Example: “The campus Phi Kappa Phi chapter will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Memorial Union Lark Room.” Just say, “The campus Phi Kappa Phi chapter will meet 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Union Lark Room.”
Addresses Usually we can delete the words “at the intersection of,” because two crossing roads obviously intersect. Example: “Police found a lost dog at the intersection of University Drive and 12 th Avenue South.” “Police found a lost dog at University Drive and 12 th Avenue South.”
More deadwood Noon luncheon. Just say luncheon; all luncheons are at noon. Detailed information is available upon request at.... Details are available at.... General public. The public is general, so no need for that word. Held. Generally this word isn’t necessary. Example: “The rally will be held Friday.” The rally will be Friday.” Useful solution. If it’s not useful, it’s not a solution.
More deadwood The incident. Usually not needed. Example: “She investigated the incident.” “She investigated.” Guest speaker. Just say speaker. If that were the case,... If so,... At this point in time. Now. Or that favorite of flight attendants: “Be sure to take your personal belongings with you.” As opposed to your impersonal ones, apparently. You can leave those for the cleaners.
Does it matter? “A small detail, you say—not worth bothering about. It is worth bothering about. The game is won or lost on hundreds of small details. “Writing improves in the direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn’t be there.” --William Zinsser, On Writing Well.