Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mantra overload (3)

As we become increasingly indolent, we Americans are using more and more mantras in our writing. It is now common to see a writer use several mantras in a single sentence. This atrocious habit is the death of clear writing.

Recently I mentioned Vivek Kundra, the chief information officer of the U.S. Government, who used three mantras in one sentence. Now it appears that the Department of Homeland security, which is also part of the U.S. Government, has beaten Mr. Kundra’s ignoble record.

According to James Delingpole, a British journalist, someone in Homeland Security wrote this sentence: “Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment.” (My boldface.)

I count that as four mantras.

The Takeaway: If you frequently resort to using mantras, you will make yourself look stupid and lazy. Here’s the cure: Whenever you are tempted to write down the first mantra that comes to mind, stop! Search your mind or a thesaurus for a word that precisely and accurately conveys your meaning. For a helpful discussion of mantras versus precise words, see my post about the mantra drive.

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