Thursday, February 6, 2014

As opposed to what?

Often a writer will use a phrase that prompts his reader to wonder, “As opposed to what?”

For example:
Fee-for-service.” Your reader knows that a fee is an amount of money he has to pay for a service, so when he encounters the adjectival phrase “for service,” it sounds redundant. He wonders, “As opposed to what? A fee for something other than service? A fee that entitles me to no service?” A service with no fee? A service offered in barter?
Sugar diabetes.” Are there types of diabetes that have nothing to do with blood sugar?
Core fundamentals. What other kinds of fundamentals are there? Extraneous fundamentals? Tangential fundamentals?
A Freshwater Rinsebutton on a washing machine. As opposed to what? A salt-water rinse?
The Takeaway: Remember, your reader can’t read your mind. If you combine a familiar noun with a redundant-sounding modifier, tell your reader what you are talking about. If you don’t, he may become distracted. Anticipating and preventing his distraction is part of the job of writing.

See disclaimer.

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