I’m in the process of reading John Stott’s Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today. He provides these challenging words from C.S. Lewis on the subject of being verbose. It makes me want rewrite all of the papers I’ve completed this semester. Lewis refers to it as ‘verbicide’ in his letter to a child in America in 1956:
What really matters is:
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean, and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long vague one. Don’t ‘implement’ promises, but ‘keep’ them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean ‘more people died’, don’t say ‘mortality rose’.
4. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible’, describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’, make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only saying to your readers ‘please will you do my job for me’.
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.