I have noticed with increasing frequency that I ramble. I think it is manifesting itself like a nervous tic. My close friends might excuse it away in their kindness, but I do believe they sometimes feel I just have too much caffeine in my system. My being verbose in person is now noticeable in my writings. I have a tendency to prattle on and use large or intimidating words to make myself feel better. No, I’m just kidding… my words could hardly intimidate a flea. They might suffocate a flea, just in the sheer magnitude of them, but intimidate… yeah – I don’t think so.
The thirteenth rule of “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White is:
13. Omit needless words.
It is stated in the discussion regarding this rule that “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” Very well said Mr. Strunk and Mr. White. I am one who violates this rule to a point I should be fined. To my credit, I am not the only who does this. I searched on the internet for the phrase “omit needless words” and found blog after blog that discussed the how and why of the statement. They also referred to “tighter writing” which I assume is a shorter way to say “omit needless words”. Between the two I have found many different exercises that should, in the end, make my writing more concise.
For me, the difficulty lies in the fact that I want to be descriptive. I also think there is a part of my mind that sees my ramblings as flowery and girlie – I can almost see the words written in script with embellishments and swirls going every which way. I need to retrain my brain, however, that it isn’t about the amount of words in a sentence. Rule 13 has some other pearls of wisdom: “Vigorous writing is concise…. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
There you have it folks – every word must tell.
I need to get out of the habit of just writing whatever comes into my mind (as we have already proven that I am verbose) and using common expressions. It causes me to “fall into wordiness” which ultimately detracts from my story or blog, as the case may be. If I become more succinct in my discussions, without taking away from the gist of my writing there will be a huge difference in the outcome.
I’m going to do a little experiment here, with the hope that I might get some insight from those of you who read this. This next paragraph is from an article I wrote awhile ago for my martial arts newsletter.
I do have to admit that when we first arrived in Okinawa, it was a bit of a shell shock. I, for one, was expecting more of the same [Tokyo] – but Okinawa, at least the parts we first visited, is very Americanized. I had the absolute pleasure to meet McGale. Sensei, and our group spent a lot of time with him and his family. We stayed at the marine base while in Okinawa, did some training, a lot of talking, and some exploring. Okinawa is very tropical, there were amazing sights and wonderful memories created during our stay there.
Now, lets revise it with Rule 13 in mind:
It was shocking to arrive in Okinawa. We didn’t expect it to be so Americanized. Even so, we had a wonderful visit. Our group spent a lot of time with McGale. Sensei and his family. We had the opportunity to train while staying at the marine base, as well as explore the very tropical sites of Okinawa.
Now to me, that comes off as being a little dry. It is much more concise, but is lacking some of the feel that I would like to read. I won’t bore you with more revisions, but I do have a few final thoughts: I fear my writing might degenerate as I study some of these guidelines and make them mine. I must remember that the key to any learning process is to continue on… I just have to stop being so loquacious.