Circumlocution at Its Best (or Worst)

I love the word circumlocution. I never really have an opportunity to use it, so I’m creating one here. It means “the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea.” I actually found a great spot for it in my fantasy novel The Unraveling of Wentwater. But I doubt the word will show up in too many of my novels. The idea is to avoid wordiness, and so many of us seem to just pack in those extraneous words into our sentences, which would read so much better if we chopped the bulk of them out and pared down. I’ve come to love a nice, concise, clear sentence and so I strive to trim the fat (which is bad for you, right?).

Here are some phrases that can be reduced to a simpler expression:

  • a large portion of (many)
  • are in possession of (have)
  • at this point in time (now)
  • in spite of the fact that (although)
  • in the not-too-distant future (soon)
  • in the vicinity of (near)
  • put in an appearance (appear)
  • take into consideration (consider)
  • made a statement saying (said, stated)

Think about reading through your manuscript with the idea of boiling down wordy phrases into the simplest form–like you did in that chemistry class in school ( and hopefully didn’t burn the Bunsen burner). You may find that a goodly number of words (many) are far and beyond (more) than you absolutely must without fail have (need). Happy writing!

6 Responses to “Circumlocution at Its Best (or Worst)”

  1. Robin Leigh Morgan April 12, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    I also believe, unless I’m mistaken, the term might also apply to the use of “flowery” words to express something simple. One example which immediateky comes to my mind is:

    An exuberant abundance of gastronomic experts.

    Which simply means: Too many cooks.

    • cslakin April 12, 2013 at 7:18 am #

      Actually the word only refers to a large number of words, not flowery words. It can also mean being evasive in one’s speech. When someone writes the way you show, I just tell the writer it’s a bit OTT (over the top)!

  2. Barbara McDowell Whitt April 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    …all the way to the Supreme Court (…to the Supreme Court)

    …on a daily basis (daily)

    Little did she know that… (She did not know that…)

    She was afraid they would… (She thought they would…)

    She used to buy… (She bought…)

  3. Sharon April 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    As individuals, is there no wiggle room for how we express similar ideas in the words we choose to express those ideas?

  4. L Jay Scott April 13, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    The cure for this is “kill your darlings,” of course, first penned by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Trimming out the extra words–a large portion of –> many, from your examples–and anything else that doesn’t add to the story.

    One of my beta readers told me my script was “a lot tighter” after reading the second draft where I had done just that. It hurts SO bad (Little Anthony and the Imperials) but the script is ALWAYS better for it.

  5. Peter Prasad April 16, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    You make me want to write circumloquitous characters who have a hard time saying what they want to say.

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