Fight writing “flab”
October 12, 2016
Be brief! It’s excellent writing advice. For those looking to have their work published in a newspaper, it used to be an order. After all, there’s only so much space on a newspaper page.
The internet has made textual space constraints obsolete. But attention spans are shorter than ever. So brevity is still next to godliness — if you want readers to pay attention.
I recently stumbled upon a list of “297 Flabby Words and Phrases That Rob Your Writing of All Its Power” by Shane Arthur. Words to live by.
My flabby favorites from Arthur’s list?
- “When it comes to” — four words’ worth of throat clearing, to my ear.
- Arthur’s many examples of “nominalization” — that is, using a noun when a verb will do.
- Harvard professor Steven Pinker memorably skewered nominalization in his classic essay “Why Academics Stink at Writing.”
I would add the phrase “create a new” to Arthur’s list. If you’ve created something, isn’t it by definition “new?”
We all have our favorite flabby words and phrases. How do you pump [CLAP] your writing up?