Keeping slim linguistically
Keeping slim physically is in vogue. Fat people feel inferior. They go to gyms to shed weight. Like physical fitness, keeping slim mentally and linguistically is a personal asset.
Keeping slim mentally enhances happiness as it gives a feeling of satisfaction through only gaining a little. In the same vein, maintaining linguistic slimness is a royal road to career success.
Talkative people often lose their point in messages. Lengthy writers divert the attention of readers. Writing concisely in English is a Herculean task for both native and non-native speakers.
As people can shed weight through effort and diet, patience and constant drills are necessary to shave redundancies in English writing. Redundancy is the No. 1 enemy in writing. Adjectives and adverbs are often unnecessary in concise English. Amateurs often unnecessarily add “old” to relics, tradition, adage, maxim and proverb. The result is the use of fat and awkward expressions. In describing a bald man, they mistakenly use bald-headed man.
Also redundant are “false” illusion, “filthy” dirt, “final” completion, “originally” founded, “final” outcome, “false” rumor, “free” gift and “future” plans. In fact, illusion is false. Dirt is filthy. Completion is final. Establishment is original. Outcome is final. Rumor is false. Gifts are always free. Plans are always for future events. Passes are always free and using a free pass is not concise.
Future is often misused when we say “future” development, “future” prospects and “future” projections. People cannot expect past development, past prospects and past projections. Freezing “cold” is also awkward as freezing means cold.
People often mistakenly use X-ray photo, CD-ROM disc and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) imaging.
An X-ray is a photo. CD-ROM is a disc. MRI is imaging. ATM (automatic teller machine) machine is also grammatically wrong.
Criminal wrongdoing is also abusive English. Crime is wrongdoing and thus, we must use either crime or wrongdoing.
Yes, there are times when wrongdoing does not constitute crime.
Deduction is a correct word for deductive reasoning as deduction is a process of reasoning. Forecasting “future” sales is redundant as we forecast the future, not the past. Thus forecasting sales is appropriate.
CEOs are often blamed for using unnecessary jargon to remain pedantic.
Why do they use “employment opportunities” for denoting jobs, “downsizing,” “rightsizing” or “involuntary severance” for layoff and “economic adjustment” for a price hike? “Thank you in advance” is often misused without realizing that the expression burdens the reader.
Abstract and wordy expressions also often dilute meaning. For example, “I have formed an opinion” is wrongly used to denote “I decide.” “He has a frame of mind” is fatter than “expressing view.” “I understand” is clearer than “I got across.”
First is often abused in writing. “First” coined, “first” created, “first” introduced, “first” invented, often appear in publications. A deletion of first in each case would make the expressions more concise.
Reducing the number of words in a phrase is also necessary. Police have circumstantial evidence to support the accusation. In fact, evidence supports the accusation. Thus the circumstantial evidence on the accusation is less redundant.
Substituting a single word for a phrase is possible. We can use violate and about, instead of “in violation of” and “in the neighborhood of.”
Concise writers can delete extraneous words or phrases, “Located,” “situation,” “there is,” “centered around” can all be deleted.
Why should we use “in the very near future,” “for the purpose of,” “in the direction of,” “with regard to,” instead of soon, for, toward, on?
We can also shorten verb phrases to a verb. To conclude is shorter than “to reach a conclusion.” “To come to an end” is to end.
“Is dependent on” should be “depends on.” “To express regret” is “to regret.” “To voice disapproval of” can be saved as “to disapprove of.” “To give free expression”is to “express freely.” “To give encouragement” can be shortened to “to encourage.”
To have phrases is an eyesore when a verb is appropriate. Why do people use “making 100 appearances” instead of “appeared 100 times”? “Have a considerable impact” can be shortened to “impact considerably.”
Without using such overworked words as
“actual,” “actually,” “real” and “really,” “kind of” and “type of,” writing can be more to the point.
Cooperation is cooperating together. Thus joint cooperation is wordy. Experience is a previous event. History talks about past. Record is always all-time high. Thus “cooperating together,” “joint cooperation,” “past experience” and “all-time record” are stereotypically fat expressions. Accurate and slim words are cooperation, experience and record.
The same is true for “assembling together,” “attaching together” and “aggregating together,” in which together is unnecessary.
Without being separate, things cannot be distinct. Thus “separate and distinct” are wordy.
“Linking together” is also wrong as linking cannot occur without parts coming together.
Many verbs and nouns have intrinsic meanings that do not need fat adjectives.
Euphemisms often make expressions abstract. Comfort facilities are less clear than bathroom. Action plan is strategy.
“Advance planning,” “advance preparation,” “advance reservation” and “advance warning” should be planning, preparation, reservation, and warning.
“Analyze in depth” and an “established fact” are redundant as without in-depth study, people cannot analyze information. Facts are already established and thus fact should not need the adjective “established.”
As people need professional trainers in reducing fat, so they also need professional advice and reference books to keep their expressions concise.
Anyone interested in writing concise English, is advised to check books like “The Dictionary of Concise Writing: 10,000 Alternatives to Wordy Phrases” and “The Dimwit”s Dictionary” by linguist Robert Hartwell.
Lee Chang-sup is the executive managing director of The Korea Times. He is the author of the Korean-language book “How To Read The Korea Times.” Contact him at email@example.com.