My last blog introduced the topic of good diction, pointing out that a major pitfall of faulty diction was lack of conciseness, including use of excess language. Additional thoughts on good diction follow below.
Don’t Shortcut Sentences. Be alert to the possibility that you may inadvertently omit necessary words. Laziness or carelessness can result in shortcutting a sentence by omitting a word which is required for its instant understanding, as in the following example:
Faulty – Upon leaving, you will drive through the outskirts of town as well as the park.
Correct – Upon leaving, you will drive through the outskirts of town as well as through the park.
Avoid “Shotgunning.” Excess language also takes the form of “shotgunning,” or letting loose a barrage of words in the hope that something “sticks to the wall.” This form of aimless writing has often been used for one of two reasons: to provide a smokescreen for the writer who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about or, more likely, where the writer is trying to confuse the reader into adopting a particular line of thought by burying him/her in an ocean of non-relevant verbiage. This approach should be avoided at all costs; it is a clear turnoff for a discriminating reader.
Eliminate Redundant Information. As a corollary to the discussion in the previous blog about the elimination of excess language, question the need for repeating any information unless it is for emphasis. Needless repetition will lengthen your writing unnecessarily and mark you as being a careless and inattentive writer. Reading the same material over again can be boring and even cause the reader to disregard information they have read before. Cutting down on repetitious paragraphs and sentences will earn the gratitude of your reader and enhance your writer’s credentials. Organize your outline to group related information together. This approach will help to identify and eliminate repetitious information.
The problem of tautology, excess language or wordiness, i.e., saying the same thing twice in different words, mentioned last time, also fits into this general area. This is an easily overlooked trap for the unwary. Note that the previous sentence is itself tautological because it repeats the idea of a trap in different words. Redundant or tautological expressions are a form of “guilding the lily,” to use the vernacular. They are the mark of a careless writer or one whose thinking is careless. Either way, the reader may simply conclude that the writer is not entirely credible.
Tautological expressions are a common occurrence. You can even find experienced writers unconsciously using them. Here are some examples:
bottom line result
huge, gaping hole
drab, colorless writing
square in shape
Use The Correct Idiom. Another aspect of poor diction is the use of a faulty idiom. This is an expression though correct in grammar and general meaning uses words in a manner contrary to general usage. “I’m going to leave in a half an hour” is wrong; “I’m going to leave in half an hour” is correct. “There is no such a person” is incorrect; “There is no such person” is correct. “I enjoy to walk” is incorrect; “I enjoy walking” is correct. “Barney has no hesitation to losing his temper” is incorrect; “Barney has no hesitation in losing his temper” is correct. Another example: You will “agree with [a person],” but “agree to [a proposal].” Unfortunately, there are no general rules for avoiding incorrect use of idioms. You must learn them individually. Widespread reading and making a list of frequently encountered idioms should be helpful.
Copyright 2012. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.