© 2012 by Marv Goldberg

Are your documents bulging at the seams? Are you getting a bad back from lugging around the CD with your 736-page Quick Start Guide? Let's see what we can do about it.

It saddens me that we can't implement the simple solutions: remove every other (1) chapter, (2) page, or (3) word. After all, how many of you have the hubris to think that your readers will stay awake long enough to notice the difference? But no, let's be more subtle. Here are some practices you can employ creatively:

Let's start with apharesis, the deletion of letters from the front of a word. Thus, beneath magically becomes the space-saving 'neath. Look at that: only three paragraphs into this rant and I've already saved you two letters! Now it's time for apocope, which is the deletion of letters from the end of a word. By assiduous application, though becomes tho'. Three useless letters hacked off this time. The amazing thing is that both words are still recognizable to your overjoyed users. Time to become really creative using syncope to delete letters from the middle of a word. Thus, over transforms into o'er (this is very much like forming the contractions that the Evil Editing Police don't want you to use).

You can even leave out conjunctions and get away with it. It's called asyndeton, and no less a personage than Julius Caesar taught us how with his veni, vidi, vici. (Pronounced, for those of you who played hooky from Latin class that day: "wenni, widdi, wikki".) There's probably no truth to the persistent rumor that he originally wrote veni, vidi, visa ("I came, I saw, I shopped").

[And I don't want to hear any grousing about Localization. If they don't like it, let them get their own language!]

Now that you've got all this extra room in your doc, let's put it to good use. (Look, I never said there was anything wrong with a 736-page Quick Start Guide, did I?)

You've removed the serial "and" (as in "I came, I saw, and I conquered"), so let's use polysyndeton (repetition of conjunctions in close succession) to add a few. A perfect example is in the song lyric "wine and women and song and women and women and song and wine". Got room for another "and" or two? Well, hendiadys is the expression of an idea by two words connected by "and" ("look and see if anyone is coming"). While the "look and" is redundant, it does lend emphasis. Actually, there's nothing wrong with redundancy (except in the eyes of the Evil Editing Police). It even has its own word: pleonasm means using more words than are necessary to make the point. Think of it this way: the more words you use, the greater the chance that some of them will sink in while the customer is sinking into the arms of Morpheus.

Of course, there's a delicate balance here. On the one hand, you want to be economical and say things as succinctly as possible (so you can use the resulting spare time to surf the 'net [note the apharesis]); on the other hand, you want to provide as much information as possible to give the reader a fighting chance; on the third hand, you'd feel bad if the Poor Bewildered Customer got a hernia (either physically from schlepping around your manual or mentally from trying to absorb it). [Don't overly concern yourself with the last point; the customer probably has a decent health plan, including counseling.]

One problem with being too wordy is that meaning can be lost in prolixity. The term ignotum per ignotius means an explanation more obscure than what it's attempting to explain. (It was probably coined specifically to describe my manuals.) This goes along with lucubration, which is heavy-handed or overly-elaborate text.

[This is probably as good a time as any to mention that a Hellenologophobe is someone who hates esoteric Greek-derived words. Just thought I'd throw that in. (I suppose there's a corresponding word for someone who hates esoteric Latin-derived words, but I can't be expected to do all your work for you!)]

If you're really getting upset with all these Latin and Greek terms, all you need to do is figure out how to sneak in zumbooruk (a small cannon fired from the back of a camel). Five bucks to the first one of you who gets it into a document that survives the Evil Editing Police.

I hope you're learning something from all this, chillun. Words are the tools and materials with which we construct our Immortal Edifices. How do you want your manuals to be remembered? ("Gee, I put 380 customers to sleep in one afternoon; is that a world's record?") When the dust has settled, will you have created a one-of-a-kind Notre Dame de Paris or another cookie-cutter housing project?

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