Wednesday, August 1, 2007

2.8--Clutter II: More practice

A. Here’s the problem:
Once just isn’t enough. Clutter is such an insidious disease nearly everyone catches it. It’s a creeping blight that destroys whatever is true, original, thoughtful, or beautiful in our writing. So we have to follow the advice of the New York cabdriver, who, when asked by another driver stopped at a light, “how do I get to Carnegie Hall,” replied, “practice, practice, practice.”

B. What to do:
According to Strunk, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” Keep looking for ways to eliminate the clutter in your sentences. You can’t do yourself any higher favors as a writer-in-training.

C. Example: At the top of the pyramid of social acceptability is one elite family, which in The Age of Innocence is the Van der Luydens.
Corrected Version: In The Age of Innocence, the Van der Luydens stand at the top of the social pyramid.

D. Now you try—write corrected versions of the following sentences.
1. The letter was the turning point in the novel, it was the point that would lead to all other emotions, it was pivotal.
2. Because Elizabeth was such a liberal-minded thinker, she was able to formulate her own personal belief system relating to what a marriage should be.
3. The novel, in essence, is able to accurately explore the nature of British society in the early nineteenth century by portraying a comedy in which the characters must overcome pre-judgment and discover the truth about one another while still remaining within their social and societal bounds.

E. For more information or additional practice, check the following sources:
Macrorie, pp. 34-40 (excellent lists)