Verbosity or verboseness is speech or writing which uses more words than needed. A common example is "Despite the fact that" as a common replacement for "Although". Antonyms of verbosity include succinctness, concision, laconism, and plain language. Some teachers, including the author of The Elements of Style, warn writers not to be verbose. Similarly, some authors, including Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, are known for their succinct styles and avoidance of verbosity.
Synonyms for verbosity, of varying flavors of the meaning, include wordiness, verbiage, prolixity, grandiloquence, garrulousness, expatiation, logorrhea, and sesquipedalianism. Corresponding adjectival forms are verbose, wordy, prolix, grandiloquent, garrulous, and logorrheic. Slang terms such as verbal diarrhea also refer to the practice.
Examples of verbosity are common in political speech, academic prose, and other genres.
The word logorrhoea is often used pejoratively to describe prose which is highly abstract, and, consequently, contains little concrete language. Since abstract writing is hard to visualize, it often seems as though it makes no sense, and that all the words are excessive. Writers in academic fields which concern themselves mostly with the abstract, such as philosophy, especially postmodernism, often fail to include extensive concrete examples of their ideas.
In an attempt to prove this lack of academic rigor, physics professor Alan Sokal wrote a nonsensical essay, and had it published in a respected journal (Social Text) as a practical joke. The journal kept defending it as a genuine article even after its own author rebuked the editors publicly in a subsequent article in another academic journal. The episode has come to be known as the Sokal Affair.
The term is also sometimes less precisely applied to unnecessarily (and often redundantly) wordy speech in general; this is more usually referred to as prolixity. Some people defend the use of additional words which sometimes look unnecessary as idiomatic, a matter of artistic preference, or helpful in explaining complex ideas or messages.
Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States, was noted as a grandiloquent speaker, with a florid style unusual even in his era. A Democratic leader, William Gibbs McAdoo, described Harding's speeches as "an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea."
Senator Robert C. Byrd (Democrat, of West Virginia) lost his position as Majority Leader in 1989 because his colleagues felt his grandiloquent speeches, often employing obscure allusions to ancient Rome and Greece, were not an asset to the party base. This trait has been exemplified by oratory quoting Shakespeare in reference to the stock market.
The Michigan Law Review published a 229-page parody of postmodern writing titled "Pomobabble: Postmodern Newspeak and Constitutional 'Meaning' for the Uninitiated". The article consists of extremely complicated and highly context sensitive self-referencing narratives about the article itself. The text is peppered with an absolutely excessive number of parenthetical citations and asides, which is supposed to mock the cluttered postmodernist style of writing.
In The King's English, Fowler gives as one of his examples this passage from The Times: "The Emperor received yesterday and to-day General Baron von Beck.... It may therefore be assumed with some confidence that the terms of a feasible solution are maturing themselves in His Majesty's mind and may form the basis of further negotiations with Hungarian party leaders when the Monarch goes again to Budapest." Fowler objected to this passage because The Emperor, His Majesty, and the Monarch all refer to the same person: "the effect", he pointed out in Modern English Usage, "is to set readers wondering what the significance of the change is, only to conclude that there is none."
William Strunk, an American professor of English, wrote about the balance between being clear and being concise in 1918. He advised "Use the active voice: Put statements in positive form; Omit needless words."
In A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) Henry Watson Fowler says, "It is the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly, & still more those whose notions of style are based on a few misleading rules of thumb, that are chiefly open to the allurements of elegant variation," Fowler's term for the over-use of synonyms. Contrary to Fowler's criticism of several words being used to name the same thing in English prose, in some other languages, including French, it might be thought to be a good writing style.
Mark Twain (1835–1910) wrote "generally, the fewer the words that fully communicate or evoke the intended ideas and feelings, the more effective the communication."
Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), the 1954 Nobel laureate for literature, defended his concise style against a charge by William Faulkner that he "had never been known to use a word that might send the reader to the dictionary." Hemingway responded by saying, "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use."
An inquiry into the 2005 London bombings found that verbosity can be dangerous if used by emergency services. It can lead to delay that could cost lives.
A 2005 study from the psychology department of Princeton University found that using long and obscure words does not make people seem more intelligent. Dr. Daniel M. Oppenheimer did research which showed that students rated short, concise texts as being written by the most intelligent authors. But those who used long words or complex font types were seen as less intelligent.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.
However, despite this line becoming proverbial over time, Shakespeare's audiences were not necessarily inclined to read Polonius as someone who is perfectly wise; his sentences, like that of much early modern drama, can easily be seen as part of a comic trope.
"I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
and rewrote it as
"Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."
Orwell’s deliberate usage of unnecessary words only serves to further complicate the statement. For instance, the words "objective", "contemporary" and "invariably" could be cut, with virtually no loss of meaning. What both the Bible and Orwell were trying to say could be paraphrased (albeit obtusely) in three words: "Success is stochastic".
It was especially risky to use scientific jargon in front of quantum physicist Richard Feynman. Nothing made him as angry as intellectual pretense achieved though making simple things sound complex. Outstanding talent for clarity, he taught the mastery of technical presentation: Don’t say 'reflected acoustic wave', say 'echo'. Forget all that `local minima'. Just say there's a 'bubble' caught in the crystal and you have to shake it. In his anecdote collection, he recalls his participation in a multi-disciplinary conference discussing the nebulous topic "the ethics of equality". Feynman was at first apprehensive, having read none of the books which the conference organizers had recommended. A sociologist brought a paper which he had written beforehand to the committee where Feynman served, asking everyone to read it. Feynman found it completely incomprehensible, and feared that he was out of his depth—until he decided to pick a sentence at random and parse it until he understood. Feynman discovered that
- The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels
stood for "People read". The rest of the paper soon made sense in the same fashion, e.g. "The medical community indicates that a program of downsizing average total daily caloric intake is maximally efficacious in the field of proactive weight-reduction methodologies" meant merely "Doctors say that the best way to lose weight is to eat less".
The word verbosity comes from Latin verbosus, "wordy". There are many other English words that also refer to the use of excessive words.
Grandiloquence is complex speech or writing judged to be pompous or bombastic diction. It is a combination of the Latin words grandis ("great") and loqui ("to speak").
Logorrhea or logorrhoea (from Greek λογόρροια, logorrhoia, "word-flux") is an excessive flow of words. It is often used pejoratively to describe prose that is hard to understand because it is needlessly complicated or uses excessive jargon. The term is also sometimes applied to unnecessarily wordy speech in general.
Sesquipedalianism is a linguistic style that involves the use of long words. Roman poet Horace coined the phrase sesquipedalia verba in his Ars Poetica. It is a compound of sesqui, "one and a half", and pes, "foot", a reference to meter. The earliest recorded usage in English of sesquipedalian is in 1656, and of sesquipedalianism, 1863.
Garrulous comes from Latin garrulus, "talkative", a form of the verb garrīre, "to chatter". The adjective may describe a person who is excessively talkative, especially about trivial matters, or a speech that is excessively wordy or diffuse
- Bloviation, a style of empty, pompous political speech
- Bullshit bingo
- Gift of the gab
- Glittering generality
- List of Germanic and Latinate equivalents in English
- List of plain English words and phrases
- Loaded language
- Logorrhea (psychology)
- Nonscience (book)
- Sokal affair
- Tautology (rhetoric)
|Look up verbose in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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. . . the rule of elegant variation (that is, using synonyms wherever possible), which purists consider to be essential for good style in French.
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Elegant variation French tends to avoid repetition of proper names, with a description of the person, at second reference.
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'his almost compulsive need to solve puzzles, his provocative mischievousness, his indignant impatience with pretension and hypocrisy, and his talent for one-upping anybody who tries to one-up him'
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What Feynman hated worse than anything else was intellectual pretense -- phoniness, false sophistication, jargon
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