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.
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?