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Opinions of Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Columnist: Anthony Kwadwo Kyei

Avoid verbosity in writing

In writing good scripts, one must always avoid verbosity. Verbosity is simply the fact or quality of using more words than needed; long-windedness. It is related to wordiness, tautology and overwriting.

Consider this ridiculous sentence: During the commencement of the beginning of the first starting, I knew Kotoko would win the match. How does this sentence strike you? Obviously, this is verbosity of the highest form! Simply, the sentence could be rewritten as follows: At the beginning, I knew Kotoko would win the match.

Besides, consider the following verbose sentence: The Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo-led ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) government inaugurated 307 ambulances last week. The sentence could simply be rewritten as follows: The Akufo-Addo government inaugurated 307 ambulances last week. Who doesn't know President Akufo-Addo belongs to the NPP and that the current government is being led by him?

Verbosity, overwriting and flamboyance mar the beauty of speeches or scripts. Good writers don't use enough words to express the meaning they wish to convey. In other words, they avoid verbosity.

I have noticed that verbosity poses a big challenge to many writers and speakers of English. Now, let's consider some 12 verbose expressions commonly used by many people on a daily basis.

Yet still

Carefully study the following sentence: The path was dark, yet still I found my way. It's verbose to combine 'yet' and 'still' in a sentence; one must be dropped, as they convey the same meaning.

Therefore, the sentence should be corrected as follows: The path was dark, yet I found my way OR The path was dark, still I found my way.

Arraign before court

Study the following sentence painstakingly: Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy have been arraigned before court. The expression 'arraigned before court' is tautological. As a verb, arraign means 'put before court'. Therefore, don't combine 'arraign' and 'before court'.

Hence, the sentence should be corrected as follows: Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy have been arraigned OR Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy have been put before court.

6:00 a.m. in the morning

Study the sentence that follows: The meeting commenced at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. The abbreviation a.m. (from Latin 'ante meridian') means 'before noon' or 'in the morning'. Therefore, it's wordy and superfluous to combine 'a.m.' and the phrase 'in the morning'.

Hence, the sentence should be corrected as follows: The meeting commenced at 6:00 a.m. OR The meeting commenced at 6:00 in the morning.

Similarly, neither say '2:00 pm in the afternoon' nor '8:00 pm in the evening'. Both expressions are verbose.

The reason is because…

Study the following sentence carefully: The reason is because she doesn't love you anymore. It is wordy to combine 'reason' and 'because'. They convey the same meaning.

Hence, the sentence should be corrected as follows: The reason is that she doesn't love you anymore OR It is because she doesn't love you anymore.

Return back

Study the sentence that follows: President Akufo-Addo has returned back from the United Kingdom. It is verbose to add 'back' to most of the words that begin with the prefix 're'. Therefore, the following expressions are wordy: revert back, recoup back, repatriate back, retrieve back, restore back, etc. The reason is that the prefix 're' stands for back, again or once more. For example, it's wordy to say 'repeat again'. Simply say 'repeat'.

Hence, the earlier sentence should be corrected as follows: President Akufo-Addo has returned from the United Kingdom OR President Akufo-Addo is back from the United Kingdom.

Pretend as if

Carefully study the following sentence: I closed my eyes and pretended as if I was asleep. The expression 'pretend as if' is wordy. As a verb, pretend means 'to behave as if'. Hence, don't put 'pretend' and 'as if' together.

Therefore, the sentence should be corrected as follows: I closed my eyes and pretended I was asleep OR I closed my eyes and behaved as if I was asleep.

Lynch to death

Study the following sentence: Major Mahama was lynched to death in May 2017. The expression 'lynched to death' is verbose. The verb 'to lynch' connotes killing, murder or death. Hence, it's superfluous to combine 'lynch' and 'to death'.

Therefore, the sentence should be corrected as follows: Major Mahama was lynched in May 2017 OR Major Mahama was murdered/killed in 2017.

Can be able

Study the following sentence: I can be able to attend the meeting tomorrow. As a modal verb, can means 'be able to'. Hence, it's wordy to combine 'can' and 'be able to'. Besides, 'be able to' is used to form the future and perfect tenses and the infinitive.

Therefore, the sentence should be corrected as follows: I can attend the meeting tomorrow OR I will be able to attend the meeting tomorrow.

Although … but

Carefully study the following sentence: Although Liverpool beat Tottenham, but their performance was not impressive. If a sentence begins with 'Although', 'Even though', 'Though' or 'Albeit', it is verbose to use 'but' as a conjunction. Both words convey the same meaning.

Therefore, the sentence should be corrected as follows: Although Liverpool beat Tottenham, their performance was not impressive OR Liverpool beat Tottenham, but their performance was not impressive.

Should in case

Study the following sentence: Should in case Hearts lose to Kotoko, I'll be disappointed. It is verbose to combine 'should' and 'in case'. Both are conditional expressions.

Hence, the sentence should be corrected as follows: Should Hearts lose to Kotoko, I'll be disappointed OR In case Hearts lose to Kotoko, I'll be disappointed.

Most especially

The following sentence is an extract from a newspaper: It has been revealed that infrastructure, most especially bad roads, is the major challenge most Ghanaians face. The expression 'most especially' is verbose hence drop 'most'. The word 'most' is already implied in 'especially'.

Therefore, the sentence should be corrected as follows: It has been revealed that infrastructure, especially bad roads, is the major challenge most Ghanaians face.

Please, kindly…

Study the sentence that follows carefully: Please, kindly forgive me. It is wordy to put 'please' and 'kindly' together. Each can nicely be used to express courtesy or politeness. Hence, one must be dropped!

Therefore, the sentence should be corrected as follows: Please forgive me OR Kindly forgive me.

The author is a writer and a proofreader

Writer's email: anthokyei@gmail.com

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