Clutter isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Author William Zinsser discussed the topic of clutter in his book entitled On Writing Well. Clutter, in writing, refers to the unnecessary addition of words in order to further explain a point. Zinsser gave myriad examples of clutter he hears in his everyday life, from flight attendants cautioning passengers to meteorologists predicting the weather.

There are some points in his chapter that I agree with: The more recent inclusions of the preposition “up” and the fact that redundancy is just that. Redundant. There has been, as Zinnser said, a newfound need to include a the preposition “up” after a verb when it’s not doing anything other than taking up space. Examples that the author gave were phrases like “head up” rather than “head,” or “free up” rather than “free.” I think that the word up is used way too often and I wholeheartedly agree that it could be deleted more often than not. In addition, when people write and speak, they tend to say the same thing twice but with different wording. This is a huge problem that I think applies for multiple genres. In creative writing, the story can be boring and drawn out if there are too many redundancies; in journalism, stories should be as concise as possible to save space in print and to keep readers engaged online.

Although I agree with those two points, there are definitely a few things in the chapter that I disagree with in regards to professionalism, political correctness, and adjectives. Zinsser gave the example of a doctor asking a patient if pain was felt, and claimed that the language they use is ‘pompous’ because they don’t speak in simple, everyday terms. With this, I disagree. The language used in a professional environment should be different and  more finessed than the language used within the household. A doctor talking to his patient like he speaks to his child, for the mere reason of removing clutter, is neither sensible nor professional. In terms of political correctness, I feel like the same ideas apply: The author stated that “Clutter was political correctness gone amuck,” (Zinsser 14). In my opinion, it’s better to  be politically correct and a little redundant than to be perfectly concise without a filter. The author also degraded the use of adjectives by saying that they were unnecessary and contributed to clutter. In my opinion, adjective are vital tools to unique, interesting writing. I do agree with the fact that a list of six adjectives is unnecessary, but to argue that adjectives were a waste of space is to argue that boring writing is the better alternative.


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