Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My Old Fave

1. Habit words are like, um, you know words and phrases we use in our speech and writing, you know.

2. We are not always, you know, aware of our repetition of such words or phrases, many of which, you know what I'm saying, qualify as a twoofer in that they are ot only, you know, repetition-bound, they are like, um, cliche.

3. I am splendid in locating the habit words of other writers, not always so able to detect my own.

4. My best guess right now is that "and" is my favorite, using it not so much to link a laundry list of nouns as to link independent clauses (that could just as easily stand as entire sentences.

5. I am also given to "accordingly," an adverb that seems to have become my substitute for ergo as in the tail end of a syllogism. One or two propositions are put forth and in comes Shelly for the summary, "Accordingly," he begins his payoff sentence.

6. In setting forth the previous observation, it is borne in on me that I am no stranger either to the "as in" trope, my apparent way of showing that a example of some illstrative sort is about to follow.

7. Another habit word of mine, an adjective this time, is lovely. Arrgh!

8. Speaknig of adjectives, I am also inordinately fond, it seems ,of wonderful.

9. There is a country-Western song admonishing mothers "Don't let your son grow up to be a cowboy." I co-opt that to admonish writers not to allow themselves to inflate their sentences with habit words.

10. This would be a propitious (almost said splendid) time to have said, "Accordingly" as I admonished myself to turn my attentions back to Georg Orwell, for his essays, and for E. B. White for everything he wrote except the Strunk and White Style Guide which, I think loses some of the very things White's other work contains that lift it over the heads of the parade-watching crowd.

11. In support of all this, it would do you considerable good to make a copy of the convention sheet you use when copyediting a booklength manuscript, then use it to develop your own particular style guide. Many of your habits come from some considerable experience with The Chicago Manual of Style, but this does not mean you should rely on it to give you your own voice.

12. Why is all this necessary?

13. To keep you from sounding like an unreliable narrator. If you think that is the equivalent of hustling the dissenting vice out of a debate, go back to reading such writers as George Orwell. You get a better shot at the intent and theme if the word order and use of languag point in the right direction. After all, a text is a map, you know what I'm saying?


R.L. Bourges said...

And there I was, thinking I had cornered the market on "and", "as", all adverbs ending in "y" and the adjectives "amazing" and "wonderful". Another illusion sails downstream. (But the Orwell essays are wond...I'm enjoying the essays.)

Anonymous said...

One of the first things I learned in High School English, was to be wary of redundancies. It is something I have to be careful of in speaking. I overuse one particular adjective, instead of finding suitable substitutes, or I will repeat the same adjective or adverb in one sentence, attributed to it's respective noun or verb twice. However, in writing, these problems are easy to correct. Thesaurus' are great friends. In speech, only paying attention to habitual repetition is going to get rid of it, and even then I find I trade one habitual word up for another.

I try to avoid the word "like", as I always associate it with Prissy Valley Girls. (My own terrible admission of a stereotype I hold.) Wonderful is another pitfall of mine as well, but when I try to stray away from it, superb becomes it's substitute, to the same monotonous, redundant end.

Why is it, that I know I have an immense vocabulary, but I can never recall appropriate substitutes at a whim?