I’ve been an editor for many years (don’t make me admit how many) and a writer for even longer. After even a few years in the game, every editor develops their own list of bugbears (translation: pet peeves) – the mistakes or missteps that really stick in one’s craw (translation: annoy the pants off one).
I work with many different writers, and since I share these tips privately all the time, I figured it was time to pull them from the shadows of Track Changes comments and make them a matter of public record.
Most of the people who read this blog are marketers and business owners, so I’ve written this post with you in mind. These self-editing tips will be particularly helpful for copywriters doing business writing (i.e. writing for corporate blogs and websites, lead generation magnets like white papers, etc.) – but truly, this advice can improve almost any type of writing.
7 Lazy Writing Crutches & Bad Habits to Avoid
Inexperienced writers often make the mistake of thinking that “good writing” is fancy writing. They mistake clarity for dullness. If this is your attitude, what you usually end up with is overwriting. It can come off as show-offy, and it’s uncomfortable to read.
These seven bad habits muck up your writing, slow your reader down, and obscure what you’re trying to communicate. Relentlessly search these out and destroy them.
The so-called elegant variation
“The elegant variation” is an old term (coined by usage expert Henry Watson Fowler) that refers to an overuse of rare or poetic synonyms for more common words. The term is meant to be ironic – the effect is not actually elegant. Instead, elegant variations usually feel overwrought (or as the kids say, “try-hard”).
Coco Chanel said that – but she didn’t refuse to hobnob with Nazis
Here’s Fowler, in his Dictionary of Modern English Usage (first published in 1926):
It is the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly, & still more those whose notions of style are based on a few misleading rules of thumb, that are chiefly open to the allurements of elegant variation…. There are few literary faults so widely prevalent, & this book will not have been written in vain if the present article should heal any sufferer of his infirmity.
The elegant variation is common in journalistic writing, where writers often try to avoid repeating a noun – so you’ll see Google referred to as “the search giant” on second mention. But it crops up all over the place – when people say an author “penned a volume” versus writing a book, say. It’s cute to a point, but really easy to overdo.
Source:: Business 2 Community