Help offered to rid copy of those sloppy phrases

When last we met, Mose was ranting about conciseness.

“Writers need to tighten it up for the new year” was a plea for writers to simplify their work – and to put that commitment in the form of a resolution for 2012. In that column, our target was flabby participles.

In this month's edition of Quill magazine, Mose is thrilled to find that language queen Paula LaRoque reinforces the message with dozens of examples of flabby writing.

“Keep deadwood out of your writer's garden” is the title of her article. Her list includes many sloppy phrases that Mose has noted on occasion.

First on her list is “conducted an investigation into,” which can be stated simply as “investigated.”

She observes that undisciplined writing also gives us “in the vicinity of” when “near” will suffice, and “on a regular basis” when “regularly” works just fine.

As Mose has noted, tight writing doesn't come from one big thing you do; it comes from dozens of little things.

LaRoque suggests several of Mose's favorites:

• Use “before” rather than “prior to.”

• Choose “at” (precise) or “about” (approximate) instead of “at about”

• Pick “2 a.m.” or “2 in the morning” rather than the redundant “2 a.m. in the morning”

In fact, many of the violations she cites are redundancies: sum total, past history, and end result, among them.

Among Mose's favorites that didn't make Paula's list are hot water heater (Why do you need to heat hot water?), funeral service (Isn't a funeral a service?), and regular monthly meeting (Wouldn't monthly be regular?).

To see LaRocque's complete list, check out Quill online here.

Tighten up!


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