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URN News Digest Vol 003: Verbosity–The Creeping Weed that Kills Good Stories

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Verbosity is that ugly weed that creeps into our writing and like a parasite, turns even the most striking story into a dull and pace-less story.

Today’s digest reflects on the several stories that either overstay in the tray, or are bounced back to the reporters. Now you know one of the reasons, – Verbosity.

Some reporters use unnecessary words because they are not confident about their writing and are haunted by the fear, that the readers won’t understand their message. The danger is they end up padding stories with empty, extra, redundant and meaningless words. Forexample;

“Aluma said it is so disheartening as well as a shame for the district chairman who subscribes to the ruling National Resistance Movement party to grab the ambulance which was donated to the government in response to its manifesto of encouraging a healthy environment in the country”.

what is the chairman’s subscription to the NRM got to do with his action?  Writers ought not to drain readers’ energy by cluttered statements. The worst case scenario is that people who are verbose often do not realize it.

For purposes of this edition, I will dwell on the four types of verbosity-the small animals that creep into smart writing.

Wordiness: wordiness in writing refers to inflated words, the use of extra and high sounding words to pad or make the story long, in a seemingly strenuous effort to describe and action, event or person. We are liable for wordiness when we write awkward, long and confusing sentences.

“In response to the RDC’s threat Lurot maintains that he has not grabbed any ambulance insisting that the vehicle was assigned to him by the CAO for office purposes. He however says the vehicle which he said is park at his home can be handed over anytime he receives another vehicle to his office from the CAO’s office”.

Here’s how the revised, less wordy sentence would read: “Lurot denies grabing the ambulance. He says the CAO assigned the ambulance to him and would be willing to hand it over if another vehicle is assigned to him”.

?Tautology: This appears in a sentence that expresses the same idea in two different ways. For example, “The fire razed through the market at 4:00am in the morning”.

A.M and morning are similar. So better say: the fire occurred at 4:00am or early hours of the morning.

Another example of tautology is: “Government will lose approximately 200 billion shillings in annual remittances per year”. Annual and per year are the same.

Pleonasm: Pleonasm as a type of verbosity occurs when a writer presents a long phrase to expand on an already clear idea. “He was arrested wearing a shirt which was blue in color”.

Blue in color is a pleonasm because it is redundant.

“He was arrested due to the fact that he participated in the walk to work protests”“Due to the fact that”, that can be simply written as because.

Most of the pleonasms sneaking into our stories originate from the way we speak or simply put; the mother tongue influence. But any good reporter can learn to smell the pleonasms and pluck them out of the story.

Empty Words: The fourth type of verbosity is empty words which appear at the beginning of sentences such as “nonetheless, however, meanwhile, etc.

Verbosity makes stories difficult to understand, boring to read and a tough tuff for editors. The trick; read through the text three times and listen to yourself as you read and pluck out the redundancies. The goal is to make your story clear and smooth to the reader.

Petty Peeves
These statements came running into our stories.
• Hips of garbage …
• Unregistered tenderness to collect revenue…
• 20grams of gleece …

Quote of the Week
“Journalism can never be silent; that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air”. (Henry Anatole Grunwald).

Comments, Criticisms and observations are welcome. [email protected]

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