Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pick One

I have a writing friend who is an academic. He is afflicted with the curse of knowledge. There's one aspect of this curse I'd like to draw to your attention.

He likes to use two words to amplify or elaborate his intent. Instead, he needs to pick or select one or the other. You will see or note, that he seeks or attempts, to strengthen or augment his prose when all he does is annoys or piques his reader.

One does not get paid more for maximizing the number of distinct words in a piece.

It's nice that you want to express a nuanced intent. It's also nice that you know enough words that two or more of them bracket that intent. And you want to use both. I'll give you a gold star if you don't do it.

The fakir can lie on a bed of nails because there are hundreds of points upon which the load is distributed. Words are like nails. Use one and it penetrates. Use two and you divide their impact. Make a habit of it, and your prose will have the punch of a flaccid dodgeball.

Next time you are considering or weighing two words when neither exactly expresses your intent, sacrifice one. Or better yet, ask yourself if you know another word that works better than the first two you contemplated.

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