My Lady Copia
Perhaps because I can get so tongue-tied, I am not naturally economical in writing.
Cut half of what you write, advises my father, who is something of a raconteur.
Drop your last paragraph to avoid appearing argumentative, counsels my lawyer,
himself a gladiator. True, E.B. White held a good school. The English language is
naturally redundant: “to be” constructions, excessive nominalizations, clichés—all
deservedly banished from the Republic of Letters. Adjectives and figures of speech:
never use when an action word will do. And by god, throw away your thesaurus.
It is always surprising, though, when the Occam’s Razor falls on poetry: We cannot
consider poems of more than twenty lines. We ask that you kindly sum things up and
get to the point. Of course the poem itself may have been the point: the vent, the spill,
the tendril, the brave search party sent out after other words. (Pardon my pleonasm.)
The safest course is to unloose the diction only when it’s certain to seem appropriate.
A eulogy? You can get away with that sort of thing. Trash-talking with friends?
Of course you must play that game. An affectionate letter? Even those I have been
encouraged to tone down. Don’t pontificate, don’t come on too strong, don’t jinx things
with your exuberance. So I end here. It is, as they say, a wrap. Ad Finem. Vale.
by M.V. Montgomery
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