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« How stupid can you get? | Main | Venal? Is that you? »

Sunday, 27 January 2013

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Mannie Sherberg
No writer who's ever lived, I suspect, has consistently adhered to the injunction: "Write no unnecessary words." That's a preachment we've all memorized and all, at times, ignore. There are many reasons for this lapse, but the most common is probably that unnecessary words are a wonderful cover-up for having little or nothing to say. Churchill said of British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald that he could "compress the biggest number of words into the smallest number of thoughts." That's probably a pretty fair description of most writers on most days. Interestingly, the wordiness problem evidently goes back to very ancient times. In "Ecclesiastes" (5:2). Koheleth warns us that "foolish utterances come with much speech." And he also tells us (5:5) that "much dreaming leads to futility and to superfluous talk" -- a dictum that, had he read it and taken it to heart , would have saved Karl Marx a lot of wasted time. Tolkien was exactly right. The "laconic" is assuredly worth striving for, but -- sadly -- "only occasionally achieved."

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