‘The illusion of meaning without its substance’
Modifiers are “the great deceivers,” according to The Associated Press Guide to Good News Writing. “They give the illusion of specific meaning without its substance.”
How do you know whether a modifier delivers substance or illusion? Try the picture test. Picture:
A black kitten
An 8-week-old black Persian
The picture in your mind changes with each new piece of information. That means modifiers like “8-week-old” and “black” add concrete detail.
If not, it adds bulk without substance.
Now, picture that 8-week-old black Persian again. This time, let’s add one more word:
Cute 8-week-old black Persian
Does the picture change? No. That’s because “cute” doesn’t add meaning to the phrase “8-week-old black Persian.”
It’s a great deceiver.
Lose the modifiers that add bulk without content. Write in specific nouns and verbs instead.
Source: Ann Wylie, Cut Through the Clutter, Wylie Communications Inc., 2005
Leave a Reply