Wednesday, August 1, 2007

2.10--Clutter IV: I Edit Myself

A. Here’s the problem:
Before I leave the topic of clutter, I want to make clear that writing cluttered prose isn’t a phase like bad skin or braces, something you’ll grow out of as you leave adolescence behind. It’s a problem you should deal with constantly, an awareness I hope you will carry with you the rest of your lives. Pruning my prose, weeding the surplus verbiage that can choke otherwise healthy sentences, is something I do to every sentence I write. And I always will.

B. What to do:
Here are some samples from this text, sentences I wrote then attempted to improve by trimming unnecessary words. My goal is always the same—to help the reader follow the path of my thoughts more easily by cutting back the jungle of unwanted growth. For each pair below, the first—O—is my original sentence, the second—R—the revised version as it appears in this text.

O. I want to provide both print and internet resources for all topics, so you can get further instruction in individual areas where you need additional work.
R. I will provide additional print and internet resources so you receive further instruction in individual areas.

O. . . .tell each other which sentences are worded in such a way that their meaning isn’t coming through.
R. . . .tell each other which sentences are poorly worded.

O. All these strategies take time, so they all require you to begin early and break your essay writing down into a process:
R. These strategies take time, so you must begin early and divide your work into stages:

O. . . . culled examples of these errors from papers I’ve collected over the years, and written a series of exercises designed to accomplish several goals.
R. . . . culled examples of these errors from papers I’ve collected, and designed a series of exercises to accomplish several goals.

O. No real emotion is ever openly expressed, merely hinted at indirectly so that it be understood and responded to without ever being acknowledged for what it is. As a result, this socially prescribed, highly symbolic behavior stifles the characters’ emotional lives, gradually turns them into dishonest people, and even strips them of their essential humanity.
R. No direct emotion is ever expressed, merely hinted at so it can be responded to without being acknowledged. As a result, this socially prescribed code stifles characters’ emotional lives, gradually makes them dishonest, and eventually strips them of their humanity.