Read this short essay and see if you notice anything.
My fellow countrymen, I speak to you as coequals, knowing you are deserving of the honest truth. And let me warn you in advance, my subject matter concerns a serious crisis caused by an event in my past history: the execution-style killing of a security guard on a delivery truck. At that particular point in time, I found myself in a deep depression, making mental errors which seemed as though they might threaten my future plans. I am not over-exaggerating.
I needed a new beginning, so I decided to pay a social visit to a personal friend with whom I share the same mutual objectives and who is one of the most unique individuals I have ever personally met. The end result was an unexpected surprise. When I reiterated again to her the fact that I needed a fresh start, she said I was exactly right; and, as an added plus, she came up with a final solution that was absolutely perfect.
Based on her past experience, she felt we needed to join together in a common bond for a combined total of twenty-four hours a day, in order to find some new initiatives. What a novel innovation! And, as an extra bonus, she presented me with the free gift of a tuna fish. Right away I noticed an immediate positive improvement. And although my recovery is not totally complete, the sum total is I feel much better now knowing I am not uniquely alone.
At some point you it should have dawned on you that the essay is full of pleonasms, a certain kind of redundancy. The above essay, titled Count the Superfluous Redundant Pleonastic Tautologies, was written by comedian George Carlin.
George Orwell also harshly criticized this style of writing in his essay Politics and the English Language that he said was easy to fall into which he attributed to laziness on the part of the writer.
As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.
As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for the words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious.
[W]ords, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.
As a blogger writing rapidly with little time to carefully revise and polish, I undoubtedly commit many of the sins that Carlin and Orwell identify. I try to be on my guard against such infelicities that, ironically, are more likely to occur when my writing is going particularly smoothly and the words just flow out because that’s when you drop your guard. That’s the honest truth.