An Added Bonus or a Passing Fad?

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I read a piece by Benjamin Dreyer a few days ago in Medium, a website I recently discovered thanks to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, owner of the Washington Post, and richest human on the planet. Bezos, if one keeps up with sleazy current events, was outed by the National Enquirer after announcing he and his wife were divorcing. The Enquirer soon after published stories about the affair Bezos was having with another woman. Bezos fought back, not denying the affair but enlisting his famed security chief to investigate how the tabloid got hold of his text messages and reportedly some rather embarrassing selfies.

Bezos wrote a piece about it in Medium that is quite extraordinary and could result in serious legal trouble for the National Enquirer, which he accused of blackmailing. You can read it here: I started poking around Medium and have now added it to my favorites list. There is a ton of interesting content here from dozens of categories. Some of it is curated from elsewhere, but a fair amount is written for the site. Users select topics of interest and the site provides the content. I naturally chose “writing” as one of my many interests. That is how I came across Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief of Random House and author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. It is now on the ever-rising reading list.

His most recent piece is on eliminating extraneous words from your writing. As Dreyer’s introduction notes, we are all guilty of tossing in unneeded words. As a copy chief, one of his tasks is to remove those offenders, in his words, “with which we all encase our prose like so much Bubble Wrap and packing peanuts.” In the interest of simpler writing, I am providing several examples from his list as well as a few of my own that he did not mention. Here we go:

  • added bonus – How many times have you heard this in a television commercial? Too many, I’m certain.
  • cameo appearance – Or “role.” Both are unneeded. “Cameo” fits the bill alone.
  • crisis situation – Again, unnecessary but often used, especially by police spokespersons.
  • completely destroyed – Use of this is one of my peeves. Same with completely eliminated or annihilated.
  • free gift – See “added bonus” above.
  • fall down – I am guilty of saying and writing this one. I plan to wean myself of the habit.
  • final outcome – One word too many here.
  • future plans – Again, I plead guilty and vow to improve.

glance briefly — More wordy Bubble Wrap.

  • merge together – That is the only way merging works. One can’t merge apart.
  • might possibly – I might possibly have used this before in conversation.
  • Mount Fujiyama – I did not know yama means mountain. Dreyer suggests either referring to Mount Fuji or simply calling it Fujiyama.
  • passing fad – A fad is by definition of a limited duration. Thus, the redundancy.
  • plan ahead – It is difficult to plan behind, but this is one most of us use.
  • regular routine – How many times have you heard someone say, “I need to get back to a regular routine?”
  • sudden impulse – There is no such animal as a gradual impulse. Just saying.
  • sworn affidavit – Again, one hears this often from law enforcement folks.
  • undergraduate student – As Dreyer wrote, “undergraduate is an excellent noun. No need to use it as an adjective to modify itself.”
  • unsolved mystery – Think about it. Once it is solved…
  • usual custom – Again, we’re all guilty of this one.

Dreyer has inspired me to scour my work more thoroughly. Those are my future plans and we will await the final outcome. Of course, it could just be a passing fad on my part, or a sudden impulse. We shall see.

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