In Praise of Wordiness

Earlier this week I warned you about unnecessary and repetitious words (whispered softly, ran quickly, a smile on his face). You don’t want empty spaces in your writing. Stimulate your readers and pique their interest by making every word interesting.

But sometimes longer is better: Wordiness can be an effective choice.¬†Good writers know that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all rule for every writing situation.

More-is-better is a useful principle when:

  • You’re trying to create a mood or an atmosphere
  • You’re giving unwelcome news (for example, saying “no” to a customer’s or employee’s request)
  • You’re explaining something complex
  • You’re emphasizing a point that readers might miss

Here’s one example of useful redundancy: The close of a paragraph. Let’s say you’ve just described the warmth and love you experienced in your grandmother’s kitchen as a child. You’ve said it all: The cinnamon in the air, the purring of her cat, the teakettle whistling on her stove, the songs she used to hum when she was making her famous chicken and dumplings. What’s left to say? Nothing – but if you’re an exceptional writer, you’ll wrap up the paragraph with one more sentence. Here are three possibilities:

  • I was happy there.
  • I wish I could go back.
  • Nothing was ever the same after she died.

There’s a grace and ease about a few extra words in just the right place. Don’t be afraid to take a little longer to say exactly what you want your readers to know. The results will be worth the effort.

(Did you notice that last sentence? Not really necessary, but it added a little finesse to what I’d written. At least I hope it did.)

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