Here’s a little tip from my technical editing and grammar class about why there’s so much accepted redundancy in English:
“It all goes back to that fateful Battle in Hastings in 1066. After the Anglo-Saxons lost, Norman rule was established in England and with it, a second language. In order to rule the country (and be understood), court officials, lawmakers, and judges had to repeat themselves in both official languages (sound familiar?). Commoners, anxious to put on airs and sound official, incorporated these redundancies into everyday language, bringing about some of the phrases we have today:
- Null (Anglo) and Void (Norman)
- Just (Anglo) and Proper (Norman)
This writing habit is now so widespread that writers often think they need to use the and/or construct to accommodate both words, when the best solution is to simply remove the offending redundant word or phrase.”
It’s a Digital Life
When writing for the web, you are writing for an audience that’s mostly fickle and distracted. There’s just too much information out there, so readers flit about looking for writing that’s most easily consummable to them. If they encounter any challenge to their reading (poor organization, rambling prose, padded sentences), they bail.
The maxim, “Ride the horse in the direction it’s headed” is appropriate here. If you organize your information in a way that follows how people read, your writing is more likely to be read. Web readers read differently in the following ways:
- They don’t read screens as easily as pages.
- They tend to scan and forage for the content they want.
- They don’t read in a linear fashion—they follow links and move about.
Generally, to get your writing read, write shorter sentences. This principle is widely known, but little information is ever provided on how to write shorter sentences. Over the next 14 days, I will describe ways to improve the readability of your writing based on the following web-writing principles: clarity and economy. Starting tomorrow…clarity.