Don’t reach out to me; contact me

Clutter is one of the worst enemies of good writing. Scores of new expressions creep into our language every year, and help us say in ten words what we could say in five.

This morning I received an out of office message from someone in response to my email. The gentleman advised me thus: “In my absence, please reach out to…”. Why do I need to “reach out to” someone when I can just as easily “contact” them? One word has become three, the sentence has become more “sophisticated”, and life has been sucked out from the language.

Here is another set of insidious expressions that help us say how we are going to talk about something. “It should be pointed out”, “for the purpose of”, or “due to the fact that”. If something ought to be pointed out, just point it out. “For the purpose of”  can become “for”, and “due to the fact that” can be replaced with “because”. Avoid using these longer expressions and stick to the simpler, more direct phrases.

Here’s a wonderful quote on the subject.

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. ”

― Strunk and White

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