wordiness and the Brits

Check out the notice posted in the elevator of my flat in London!

If a student of mine wrote like this in an essay, s/he would lose marks for wordiness. I wonder now if this just a North American rule?

I mean, listen to all these Americans go on about cultivating a lean, mean prose style:

“Eschew surplusage.” -Mark Twain

“Eliminate every superfluous word.” -Ernest Hemingway

“So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.” -Dr. Seuss.

You get the idea. I first learned the evils of wordiness from Strunk and White, the (American) Old Boys who wrote The Elements of Style. In my earliest essay-writing days I had several professors who enforced this little book’s pithy advice, reminding us to “omit needless words, not to make all the sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

But then, Strunk and White have come under fire for breaking their own grammar rules, and even setting rules that make no grammatical sense.

Hereafter we shall proceed calmly to express ourselves employing a style which is reflective of the experience to which we were exposed regarding the prolixity endemic to Londoners.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s