Friday, March 2, 2012

Common Problems (Part 35 of 50)

Don't insult readers. Don't state the obvious. I see this occur in two different ways. First, some writers are so eager to be understood, they'll give the same information in different words as in this example: I ran with haste; I ignored everyone on the street as I hurried. I refused to stop when anyone waved.

Stop! I understood the first time. This person is running fast. Do I need to read it three times to figure it out?

Second, they write a good, show-not-tell sentence and follow it up with the same information in a tell-but-not-show sentence.

* The urgency and agony in his voice was unmistakable; it was the saddest sound I'd heard from him. Something was terribly wrong. (The second sentence implies I'm too stupid to know the meaning of words like urgency, agony, and sad.)

* I couldn’t speak; I could not tell her what was happening. (If I couldn't speak, I assume that means I couldn't use words to explain.)

* This was a stunning, tremendous, blazing bright meteor! It dwarfed all other stars in the sky, making the pinpricks of their light barely visible. It immediately commanded our attention, holding Renee and me spellbound. (The author gave the meteor more attention than I would have in this badly written paragraph.)

* Shouldn’t we prepare ourselves in advance to face them? (Or do we prepare ourselves afterward?)

* The impact totaled the car and left Amy’s body broken, bruised, and with a collapsed lung. She was in grave physical danger. (The second sentence insults me by saying I don't understand the meaning of the injuries.) 

Readers are as smart as I am; 
therefore, I refuse to write insulting, redundant statements.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love you for saying this! Can you please tell my teacher/preacher husband that the same principles apply in conversation? I wonder if there is an Explain-aholics club in our town...

    Another tidbit I learned is to refrain from preaching in a devotional. Make my point and end it. Let my readers draw their own applications. This has helped me find succinct ways to share truths.


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