Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating.
--Strunk & White, The Elements of Style

Which authors do you treasure for their direct, plainspoken writing? And which authors write in prose so dense and dandified that you can't even get through their books?

In fiction, the rules on overwriting are unwritten and flexible. But in non-fiction, the rules are strict and clear: If you want readers to take the time to digest your ideas, never obscure them with fancy, ornate prose.

If you're one of the few writers who realize they have an overwriting problem, the solution is simple and painfully familiar to regular readers of this blog: Omit needless words.

Go over your text and cut out every word you possibly can. And then go through it again and cut out more. Then, go over it one more time and cut out still more words, just for good measure.

The process can be painstaking, but the cure is worth it.