Stage Directions

Show, don’t tell.

Show, but don’t tell.

A linguist will tell you (that) conjunctions are often pleonastic, redundant, dispensable. A writer may become emotional about them, he hates conjunctions. Debating their necessity consumes precious polishing time, but he can’t get rid of them.

Sometimes these little beasts are required in order to make the reader understand. More often they are not. Your text loses impact if you use them anyway.

Let me quote the great E.A. Rauter once more, the only one I ever heard using the term “stage directions” connected to writing. Rauter was referring to conjunctions that, in theory, connect clauses and establish a relationship between them.

“Most of all these stage directions suggest to the reader he may be stupid,” Rauter said.

The conjunction imposes an explanation upon the reader. It establishes a direction where the reader could be fascinated by discovering it. “Faszinationsdellen” is another term Rauter coined, fascination dents. That’s what many conjunctions are, missed chances to captivate the audience.

“Some people make headlines, while others make history,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt says. Never quote it that way, erase the stage direction.

“Some people make headlines, others make history,” is what he meant to say.


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