Tag: first you write a sentence

Cut The Schwa

In their work George Orwell and William Zinsser encourage us to choose short words over long words because short words tend to be Anglo-Saxon and clear while long words tend to be Latin and unclear. Zinsser says of Latin words that “In general they are long, pompous nouns that end in -ion- like implementation […] or that end in -ent- like development and fulfilment. Those nouns express a vague concept or an abstract idea, a specific action we can picture – somebody doing something.” But is clarity the only reason short words are preferable over the long?

Joe Moran writes in First You Write a Sentence that “lots of short words in a sentence fattens the vowel sounds and cuts down on schwa. Schwa is that little indistinct uh sound in unstressed syllables – such as the a in above or sofa. Schwa is the most common sound in English, although you barely hear it, because it doesn’t shape the mouth.”

If, like a poet, you care for the sounds of your sentences, for the “sonic force” of your sentences as Moran put it, choose shorter words and cut the schwa.