This is an essay on concise, uncluttered writing.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: The Principle of least astonishment notwithstanding, strive to omit obvious details.|
A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give your style.
Most first drafts can be cut by 50% without losing any information .... Look for clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away .... Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there.
Most first drafts can be halved without losing information .... Mercilessly prune clutter from your writing; be grateful for all you can throw away .... Writing improves, the more unnecessary things are kept out.
— If Zinsser followed his own advice
Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
— Blaise Pascal, Lettres provinciales no. 16 (1657)
Some writers tend to overuse quotations.
I don't mind yet another epigraph.
— Vladimir Shinkarev, Papuas from Honduras
Portions of this page are best viewed in desktop.
Sometimes editors clutter their prose with pedestrian details that the reader likely already knows or would naturally assume. Rather than informing readers, this wastes their time and dulls their attention. The following are examples of articles belaboring the routine and obvious, at times painfully:
Each piece in the game also has a point value, with more challenging pieces being worth more. At the end of play, points are tallied up
and the pieces can be thrown again or stored in a container for another use.
Some lead joints in stained glass windows melted
in the heat of the fire.
An area of over 160 hectares (400 acres) was completely destroyed by the explosion ... Stoves and lamps overturned
by the force of the blastsparked fires throughout Halifax, particularly in the North End, where entire city blocks were caught up in the inferno, trapping residents inside their houses.
Electricity is hazardous
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is
an American politician andthe president-elect of the United States.
They created a distraction which caused the tiger to turn towards the officers, who shot and killed it.
After the shooting,officials removed Tatiana's head, paws, tail and gastric contents for examination.
The crew aborted the takeoff
and initiated an emergency evacuation.
Although airline policy is that once the doors are closed they are not to be reopened,
the doors were reopened andDoty was allowed to board.
Of the 45 individuals on board, 44 were dead when rescuers reached the crash site. One passenger, a 27-year-old man from Evanston, Illinois,
was alive when rescuers found him in the wreckage, but hedied of internal injuries at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Centerville, Iowa, an hour and a half after being rescued.
Whitman was reportedly the youngest person
in the worldever to become an Eagle Scout at that time.
UC Berkeley researchers along with Berkeley Lab have discovered or co-discovered 16 chemical elements
of the periodic table– more than any other university in the world.
The Club of Rome raised considerable public attention with its report Limits to Growth, which has sold 30 million copies in more than 30 translations, making it the best-selling environmental book in
On July 23, the last night before splashdown
on Earth, the three astronauts made a television broadcast
In Washington, D.C, General George Marshall is informed that three of the four Ryan brothers have been killed within the last week, and that their mother is about to be notified
of their deaths.
The theorem was first proved by Marshall H. Stone (1936)
, and thus named in his honor.
New York City
On December 15, 1944, Miller was to fly from the United Kingdom to Paris,
France,to make arrangements to move his band there.
The Irish Boundary Commission
was a commission whichmet in 1924–25 to decide on the precise delineation of the border between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland.
Oliver Cromwell's head is the head of Oliver Cromwell.
[[Governor of Louisiana|Governor]]while you're at it.
tax cutlegislation which cut tax rates for individuals and businesses.
The Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
is a society devoted to the history of alchemy and chemistry. The Societywas founded as the Society for the Study of Alchemy and Early Chemistry in 1935.
After she replaces a missing arm and leg with
hi-techcybernetic prostheses, mercenaries led by the psychokinetic Akan raid the ship.
The bunk or bunks above the lowest one may have rails to keep the user from rolling out
and falling to the floorwhile sleeping.
Very large volcanic eruptions can cause destruction close to the volcano ...
Hot Springs officially changed its name on March 31, 1950, and the program was broadcast from there the following evening
, April 1
The islands were first used as a whaling base
by whalers who sailed far north in pursuit of whalesin the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned.
On June 28, air activity was high on both sides as Finnish bombers and German Stukas pounded the Soviet formations.
The Soviet Air Force also attacked from the air and hit the staff of the Finnish Armored Division hard with bombers from the Soviet 276th Bomber Division.and the Soviet 276th Bomber Division hit the Finnish troops hard.
The surname " Horvat",
without the "h"still exists and is the most common surname in Croatia or the Croatian diaspora.
Chloe (also Chloë, Chloé) is a feminine name
successfullygraduated from Phillips Academy in 1888, from Yale University in 1892, and from the Law Department at the University of Wisconsin in 1894.
Stokes Croft is
the name ofa road in Bristol, England.
Stokes Croft is what the name of a road in Bristol, England is called.
Here is an image of thefront houses of Beaumaris.
Dismantled viaduct over the River Eden.
This photograph was from a similar position to the first photograph
The aluminum producing companyAluminium of Greece has its production facilities in the coastal village Agios Nikolaos.
She lived for 40 years in Israel, before migrating to London in 1986, where she resided until her death, and at the age of 110 was the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor until Yisrael Kristal was recognized as such. Kristal
was also a Holocaust survivor, andwas born two months before Herz-Sommer.
From 1988 to 2015, they had
13 children total;ten daughters and three sons.
About four hours after the blaze broke out, one of the three remaining cupolas had been damaged but the fire was contained.
A department spokesman later confirmed that the fire had been extinguished.
Officially founded shortly afterwards in 1869, the "Spitzedersche Privatbank"
(English: Spitzeder Private Bank)quickly grew from an insider tip to a large company.
Portions of an unfinished sequel, "The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat" were published first posthumously, during 1938.
How the pair procreated is unspecified.
Turner syndrome is not usually inherited
from a person's parents.
Phenylketonuria is a genetic disorder inherited
from a person's parents.
Aristotle proposed in the 4th century BC that earthquakes were caused by winds trapped in
The incident made headlines
in the pressand Heifetz defiantly announced that he would not stop playing the Strauss.
After their marriage, Celia became pregnant
with a child.
In early January 1974, Corona's wife, Gloria, filed for divorce in Fairfield
, citing irreconcilable differences.
She is a supporter of Sunderland AFC
Harald Quandt's five daughters inherited about 1.5 billion Deutsche Mark ($760 million, €585 million) and later increased their wealth through the Harald Quandt Holding GmbH, a German-based family investment company and trust
named after their father.
On January 6, 2021, the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., was
violentlyattacked by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump.
Gabriel had received a bone-anchored hearing aid at age 6,
which allowed him to hear.
Since 1961, over 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, representing 139
She had wanted to be a pediatrician
when she grew up.
The rifle has a height-adjustable cheek rest, which can be positioned for right- or left-handed shooting
, i.e., it is suitable for both right- and left-handed shooters.
The Onion'sinfluence on the real world
The various symbols on the flag were each chosen
deliberatelyto represent a special aspect of Cajun culture and history.
The sentry he had shot several times was wounded.
Once inside, the pair
revealed their true intentions,tied up the guards, and spent over an hour stealing art from the museum's collection , which they loaded into their vehicle.
He then drove to a hardware store, where he purchased a Universal M1 carbine, two additional ammunition magazines and eight boxes of ammunition, telling the cashier he planned to hunt wild hogs. At a gun shop he purchased four further carbine magazines, six additional boxes of ammunition, and a can of gun cleaning solvent. He then drove to Sears, where he purchased a Sears Model 60 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun before returning home
with his purchases.
|Murder of Jo Cox|
|Location||Market Street, Birstall, West Yorkshire, England|
|Date||16 June 2016|
He witnessed the assailant stab Cox,
who fell to the ground, before shooting her and stabbing her againshoot her, then stab her again. The attacker left the scene, butwas pursued by an eyewitness who followed him and telephoned police to describe his locationidentified him to police. Armed police officers attended the incident, and arrested a suspect.
On 6 September 1966, Verwoerd was fatally stabbed at Parliament House by parliamentary messenger Dimitri Tsafendas
, who was arrested and quickly imprisoned.
|Brahmaputra Mail train bombing|
|Location||Western Assam, India|
|Date||30 December 1996|
On March 14, 1980 Lowenstein was shot in his Manhattan office by Sweeney, who was mentally ill and believed that Lowenstein was plotting against him. Sweeney then calmly waited for the police to arrive
and arrest him.
On the morning of February 19, an employee went to the roof, where four 1,000-gallon water tanks provided water pumped from the city's supply, to the guest rooms, a kitchen, and a coffee shop downstairs. In one of them, he found Lam's body, floating face up a foot below the water surface.
During the course of a routine meeting of the biology department attended by approximately 12 people, Amy Bishop, a biology professor at the university, stood up and began shooting those closest to her with a Ruger P95 handgun.
Bishop was suspended without pay retroactively on the day of the attack.
He was found dead in 1959
and is no longer sought by the police.
would remain unsolved until itwas connected to Alcala in 2011.
He broke through the ceiling into the apartment of the chief jailer—
who was out for the evening with his wife—changed into street clothes from the jailer's closet, and walked out the front door to freedom.
At the request of Scottish detectives, the Metropolitan Police
conducted a search ofsearched Black's Stamford Hill lodgings to determine whether any incriminating evidence existed at Black's address.
Morgan lunged at his attacker and tackled Muenter to the ground as he fired two rounds into Morgan's groin and thigh. Morgan's butler finished subduing Muenter, beating him senseless with a lump of coal. Morgan quickly
summoned a doctor andrecovered, returning to work on August 14.
Taking a gun, Lindbergh went around the house and grounds with butler Olly Whateley; they found impressions in the ground under the window of the baby's room and pieces of a cleverly designed wooden ladder. They also found a baby's blanket. Whateley telephoned the Hopewell police department
to inform them of the missing child.
President Kennedy's blood-stained jacket, shirt and tie
worn during the assassinationare stored in the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland.
The gun with which Ruby
shot andkilled Oswald, which came into the possession of Ruby's brother Earl, was sold in 1991 for $220,000.
While at Yale, Foster also had other stalkers, including a man who planned to kill her but changed his mind after watching her perform in a college play.
The experience was difficult for Foster.
|In the article
|In the article
|In the article |
|It's a common misconception that the
man with the gun is Mrs. Lincoln.
|You don't say!|
The word "unnecessary"
hardly does justice.
Not a bad case
|Various views from:||In the article:|
|The reader will know without being told that
this is a "view".
|We're safe in assuming that the reader
will intuit that this "view" shows a "crowd".
|Thus not some other five-sided |
megastructure for some reason being
shown us in the article The Pentagon.
|Honoring:||In the article:||Meanwhile, back in Cambridge:|
|Who would have guessed?||Could have been worse – it could have said
"Picture representing an example of an EEG
|The lead (and only) image in:||In the article:||In the article |
|Great example of an image
that doesn't need a caption.
|Recently inducted into the Principle
of Some Astonishment Hall of Fame –
caption and image both.
|In the article
(whatever that is):
|The lead image for
|The lead image for:|
No shit, Sherlock. (Turns out this is the logo|
for all CNN brands, not just CNN International –
an example of the impulse to add the obvious
leading, instead, to addition of the inaccurate.)
|And here I thought they had a
lawn, miniature building-within-a-building,
and artificial sky.
|Earth. Yes, Earth. Planet Earth. |
The lead image in the article Earth.
|In the article
|In the article
|In the article |
Harry Elkins Widener:
Edward Heath. (Apparently we're on
our own for Pat Nixon vs. the Queen.)
|survivors were buried.|
|In the article
|In the article |
|The one with the breasts and the hairdo
is Edward Heath.
|Bearing in mind that left and right are reversed south of the equator.|
killed instantly on impact whendecapitated by the K7's windscreen.
In December 1896, Newell became an assistant division superintendent of the Boston and Albany Railroad. He was killed on Christmas Eve 1897 when an engine backed over him
on the tracksat Springfield, Massachusetts..
She sustained eleven stab wounds to the face, neck and abdomen, of which at least five were to the area around the heart ... The coroner highlighted that, although passengers reported hearing "a commotion", nobody investigated.
A verdict of unlawful killing was returned.
Gacy conned Butkovich into allowing his wrists to be cuffed behind his back, at which point Gacy strangled him
to deathand buried his body under the concrete floor of his garage ... Mowery was strangled to deathand buried in the northwest corner of the crawl space ... Both Winch and Boling were strangled to deathand buried in the crawl space.
At approximately 3:39 p.m. Central Time on January 22, 1973, Johnson suffered a massive heart attack in his bedroom. He managed to telephone the Secret Service agents on the ranch, who found him still holding the telephone receiver
in his hand.
Rainier, who did not remarry, was buried alongside her
following his deathin 2005.
Many of the prisoners died and were
On the evening of 8 March 1963, Kuper, who was at home with his wife and daughter, was shot through a window by an unknown assailant. He died
of his injuriestwelve days later.
Cash's older brother Jack, with whom he was close, was
seriouslyinjured in an accidentat his job in a high school when he was pulled into an unguarded table saw while cutting oak into fence posts, and was almost cut in two. He died from his injuriesa week later.
Sisnett died in his sleep
of natural causeson 23 May 2013, at the age of 113 years, 90 days.
Music teacher Kristine Fitzhugh (1947
–2000) was murdered on May 5, 2000 in her home in Palo Alto, California.
Paramedics found her heart beating once every 10 seconds. She was taken to nearby Downey Community Hospital
he was ultimately mortally wounded
and subsequently died.
Heidnik was executed by lethal injection on July 6, 1999, at State Correctional Institution – Rockview in Centre County, Pennsylvania. His body was
His body was donated to UCLA Medical Center
after he died.
He remained in contact with neo-Nazis elsewhere
in the worldand gave interviews to various foreign far-right publications prior to his death.
The project was the second of two which allowed Kurosawa and Takemitsu to collaborate
during their lifetimes.
Before his death,Beau had been widely seen as the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for governor of Delaware.
The film starred three of France's most prominent actors – Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, who won a BAFTA award for his performance, and Yves Montand in one of his last roles
before his death.
Comment: Ditto. Or maybe they'd already died and Dr. Frankenstein reanimated them.
Comment: If death had been a consequence of his invention operating as expected, THAT would be worth mentioning.
Comment: Or maybe he's stuffed. (The description also says
Date: 1918 but we won't go there.)
The opposite of the Principle of Some Astonishment is the Principle of Complete Puzzlement: some details don't belong because, though neither obvious nor even predictable, they're completely irrelevant and will puzzle the reader as to the reason for their inclusion.
In March 2009, Schumer announced his support for same-sex marriage, noting that it "was time". Schumer previously supported civil unions. At a private
risottodinner with gay leaders ...
On December 18, 1972, Biden's wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident in Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia Biden's station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer truck
carrying corn cobsas she pulled out from an intersection.
On the evening of February 26, Martin was walking back alone to the fiancée's house
after purchasing a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea atfrom a nearby convenience store.
[[Italian-American cuisine|Italian-American]]is especially pointless.)
On September 19, 1968, Carlson died of a heart attack
in the Festival Theatre, on West 57th Street in New York City, while watching the film He Who Rides a Tiger.
The remaining passengers were taken to
a gym inArras, where they were searched and identified before being allowed to proceed to Paris.
Sixty-eight dairy cows
, all full of milk,died on a farm at Fernbrook on the Waterfall Way near Dorrigo, New South Wales, after being involved in a lightning incident.
On 30 April 2012, McAfee's property in Orange Walk Town, Belize, was raided by the Gang Suppression Unit of the Belize Police Department
while he was in bed with a girlfriend.
Michael Kinsley's "Department of Amplification: William Shawn and the temple of facts" (The New Republic, 1984 – and well worth a read in full) is a pitch-perfect sendup of The New Yorker as "a weekly monument to the proposition that journalism consists of the endless accretion of tiny details":
The June 18 New Yorker has an article about corn. It's the first in what appears to be a series, no less, discussing the major grains. What about corn? Who knows? Only The New Yorker would have the lofty disdain for its readers to expect them to plow through 22,000 words about corn (warning: only an estimate; the TNR fact checkers are still counting) without giving them the slightest hint why. Here is how it starts (after a short introductory poem):
When the New England farmer and botanist Edward Sturtevant retired, in 1887, as head of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, in Geneva, he left behind a bulky manuscript that was published in 1919, twenty-one years after his death, as "Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants." Dr. Sturtevant, who was also a graduate of the Harvard Medical School, but never practiced medicine, had scoured the world's botanical literature for mentions of all the plants that human beings were known to have eaten (he did not count tree bark, which in times of famine was often one of them), and had come up with among more than three hundred thousand known plant species, two thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven edibles. (Latter-day scientists believe he may have missed as many more.) But, of all these, only a hundred and fifty or so have ever been widely enough consumed to figure in commerce, and of those a mere handful have been of any real consequence.
Now, there are some facts for you. No doubt every single one of them has been checked. You stand in awe as they tumble toward you, magnificently irrelevant, surrounded by mighty commas, mere numbers swollen into giant phrases ("two thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven"), all finally crashing over you with the bravura announcement that nothing you have just read is "of any real consequence." How true this is! From the end of the paragraph, you gaze back on the receding vistas of inconsequence, as far as the eye can see. Even supposing we would like a bit more information about corn, and even supposing we might be relieved to know how many other plants, edible and otherwise, are not going to be discussed in this article, why are we being told about a man whose count apparently was off by half? Even supposing we need to know about Dr. Sturtevant’s book, when it was published, and when the good doctor died, why do we need to know when he retired? Even—stretching it—supposing that we need to know that this gentleman "was also a graduate of the Harvard Medical School," why, oh why, do we have to learn that he "never practiced medicine"? As for the business about tree bark, that has just got to be conscious self-parody.
Remind you of any Wikipedia articles?