Thursday 3 December 2009


By this I mean putting more words into a sentence that we actually need. Look at that sentence I’ve just written. Why not say “This is putting more words than we need into a sentence” or “overwriting is using too many words in a sentence.” It’s actually not so bad in a blog because a blog is more like speaking and you are writing on the hoof. You do want a more conversational tone.
An academic paper given at a conference would be considerably tighter and one written for a journal would be even tighter still.
When we are speaking, we do need to add in extra words. It gives the speaker thinking time and it gives the listener interpreting time. When we write, we have the chance to draft and redraft and get it right. The reader can pause to reflect on what they have read. As we read more quickly than we listen or speak, we can become very irritated by words and phrases that prevent us from getting to the content of the message.
I’ve been marking undergraduate essay assignments recently. So many of the students overwrite. I’m sure it’s because they’re thinking as they go along. Which is what I’m doing now. Which is why I’m overwriting. Still, I’ll edit this three times before I post it. And I’ll try not to take out the overwriting.

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