Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Perhaps I should Ditch the Qualifiers

I feel that you should all do this.  Perhaps you might, in certain circumstances, maybe agree with me.  On the other hand, I think that sometimes - which is not to say, every time - there may possibly be a chance that you might do something else.  

Arggh!

Qualifiers.  They're unnecessary frills and furbelows clogging up our writing.* Just get on with it. Say it.  Be confident.  Don't hedge your bets with qualifiers.  We all do it - I know I'm a culprit, but I edit the tentative 'I think' out of the sentence before I show it to anyone.  (And sometimes the I know, but decided to leave that one in.)

This post was inspired by coming across the following in a student covering letter: I feel I have been a high achiever.  I feel???  Doesn't that imply that, while the writer feels they've been a high achiever, the actual high achievements they should have received have eluded them.  I have been a high achiever, implies straight As - which was the situation in this particular case.  

"It was a very large horse."  Was it really?  Wasn't it just a large horse? Or perhaps a Shire horse,  or bigger than a house, or ginormous, or vast or seventeen hands at the shoulder or anything apart from very large.  

I think qualifiers weaken your prose. Actually, it's not just me who thinks that, and I feel I can prove it by writing: Qualifiers weaken your prose.  I can prove it. 

Of course, sometimes you want to soften what you say so you don't appear a deranged dictator, which is when qualifiers come in handy. I think. But for the most part, don't be tentative, use strong nouns and verbs so the qualifiers are redundant.  Have courage and make statements. 

*I originally wrote 'They're like unnecessary frills...'

4 comments:

Liz Fielding said...

Your first sentence sounded like something Sir Humphrey would have said in "Yes, Minister" and we all know his skill was in clouding the issue with words. :)

wilburwip said...

for the most part i'm wholeheartedly in agreement with these sentiments - though whilst i do think that, by and large, there's a strong case to be made for greater succinctness and clarity, there's also something about the sleep-inducing qualities of a long, ponderous sentence that's genuinely, and gently, appealing (in particular, i find, late at night... :-)

womagwriter said...

LOL! Qualifiers can make your writing almost unusual and quite unique, rather than being a bit similar to everything else out there... :-D

Sarah Duncan said...

Love the Sir Humphrey reference, it's exactly what civil servants traditionally do. Hence the campaign for Plain English.

I remember reading a review of a book that basically said it was ideal bedtime reading, more effective than sleeping tablets.

I read an essay today that started many sentences with something along the lines of 'On the other hand, it can also be argued that..." Rather unique, I thought.