Chapter 10

Waste no words

Make every word count. When you mean before, don’t say or write prior to, much less prior to the time when.

Though prior to is a linguistic choice that the dictionary offers us, it’s a bad choice. Never use two words for one, three words for two, and so on. Syllables add up fast and slow people down. Of course, stick to idiomatic English. Don’t start dropping articles (a, an, the) where we’d all normally expect them. And don’t cut the important word that left and right—more often than not, you really need it to be clear. But remove all the words that aren’t performing a real function. Doing so saves readers time and effort and makes your ideas easier to grasp and apply.

Wordiness can exist on many levels, from rambling ...

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