Are You Cluttered?

I’m not referring to the boxes of useless stuff nestled in your garage or overburdening your precious closet space. Nor am I hinting to the shelves crammed with books, looking as if they are fighting each other for an inch of space. Clutter is simply professional ‘newspeak’. William Zinsser and George Carlin noticed the trend and commented upon this phenomenon. Chapter two of Zinsser’s wonderful book, “On Writing Well” is dedicated to word clutter.WWZ

Clutter serves as a sad commentary about the state of language in our modern world. If you want to hear some examples, look no further than any politician, corporation, magazines, or advertising ploy. Here’s a sample about cluttered Airline language from the late, great George Carlin.


“Clutter words create confusing sentences, which become unclear paragraphs, which then grow into puzzling pages, and in the end, complete a most baffling book.” –Ernesto San Giacomo


At this moment, At this point in time, At this very second, Now, you may be thinking, “I’m an author, not some hired mouthpiece.” True, but these subtle bastardizations of language permeate us. Our minds have been absorbing this material for years. As a consequence, clutter may seep into your writing. See what I’ve crossed out in favor of the word ‘now’?

Therefore, be wary of tall skyscrapers, large giants, small dwarves, and tiny ants. I found one such example last week. I saw a promo on Twitter for a new Sci-Fi novel. As usual, I clicked the link and checked out the book using the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature. Within the second sentence of the prologue, the author mentioned the “…ill-lit darkness…” Oh well. 😦

Make sure to be aware of clutter while you’re writing, or at least while you’re editing.

Here’s some common clutter examples.

Have you noticed such redundancy in your own writing or in the writings of others?

4 thoughts on “Are You Cluttered?

  1. 1st: Thanks for the laughs. I’ve watched many George Carlin videos, and he never fails to entertain me.

    2nd: I look at much of this clutter as redundant words. I eliminate them when I see them but as you say, we’ve been exposed to them for so long, they’ve become ingrained in our minds. Two that always come to mind are dead body (a body is considered dead) and free gift (if it’s a gift, it’s free).

    3rd: I’m allowed to write “small dwarf” as opposed to “large dwarf” since I write fantasy, and my dwarfs come in all sizes, from babies to adults.

    4th: I’m going to keep that list you shared handy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some of those irritate me daily. At this moment in time, (or at this point in time) I want to shout “do you mean as opposed to that moment out of time?” which is obviously a nonsense.
    Oops! Used one there. ‘Obviously’ is a word that’s redundant. If it’s obvious, you don’t need to say so. Unless it’s a subtle saying “Well, this is obvious to me and all other intelligent people, and if you can’t see it you’re stupid.” In this case, you shouldn’t say anything. It’s rude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi V.M.
      Thanks, I’ve never focused on ‘obviously’ before. Will add it to my list.
      Zinnser’s approach tends to train one’s mind to notice the clutter. But, my first enlightenment came from a fellow in my San Antonio group critique group. He had a penchant hatred for the word ‘both’. I came to the realization that he was right.

      Like

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