Omit Needless Words! (quote)

Roy Peter Clark quoting from White from Strunk and White on page 120 of How to Write Short:

In the days when I was sitting in his class, he omitted so many needless words, and omitted them so forcibly and with such eagerness and obvious relish, that he often seemed in the position of having short-changed himself, a man left with nothing more to say yet with time to fill, a radio prophet who had outdistanced the clock.   Will Strunk got out of this predicament by a simple trick: he uttered every sentence three times.  When he delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hands, and in a husky, conspiratorial voice said, “Rule Thirteen. Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!

Clark then offers his thoughts*,

By the way, Mr. White, I wonder what Professor Strunk might have said about your phrase “grasped his coat lapels in his hands.” Did you need coat? Where else would he find lapels? And did you need in his hands? What else would he grasp them with?


The book continues to be good with many good tips but no advice on finding the time to implement them.  I borrowed this book from the library and am certain that my borrowing time will run out before I finish it.   It was this way with Writing Tools as well and not until I bought it and dedicated myself to a section like a gardener weeding and cultivating one patch of soil, did I begin to see results.

My garden tools are limited to a spade and shovel and through lack of options I’ve gotten better with each.  Clark continues to add tools faster than I can master them.  I wish I could Omit needless tools but there is no such thing.

*When I typed this first draft I had written “Offers his own thoughts” but if not his thoughts then whose?

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