The title of this post looks frightening, doesn’t it – like the name of a disease of some sort. It could be a disease, but don’t worry; it’s a writing disease. Periphrasis is the use of longer phraseology when shorter phrases will do. I’m guilty of this sin and never dreamed that I would be. It’s the place of a good editor to point it out, and my attorney friend Leon – the one I climb with – told me that he never uses two words when one will do in his own writing. He did me the favor of paring down an article that I sent him for editing the other day and when I compare the two versions, it’s remarkable how much better the revision looks!
I’ve had to work very hard at the accomplishment of periphrasis, which is funny. When I took creative writing classes in college, I was always incredibly succinct in my writing, which is something that a very patient creative writing instructor worked with me extensively on to no avail. My skills in academic writing, such as my thesis, were stellar – too stellar. I had to fight to get my Master’s thesis to reach 26 pages in length! For reference, a thesis is usually published in book form. Mine was a pamphlet. My thesis advisor kept pushing me to keep expanding the discussion section of my thesis, but I had said all there was to say about the findings and my semi-professional opinion on them. I proposed three separate hypotheses to further pursue and discussed each at length (which didn’t add much material because “at length” to me means very little when I’ve said what I have to say). My advisor then pushed me to expand the section of my thesis explaining the theories that were applicable to the premise of my thesis, just to add to my page count. In the end, we had to settle for 26 pages because I just couldn’t fluff it up any more. I was so bad at adding fluff!
Since beginning to blog, I have gotten considerably better at expanding my word count because I explain things a lot more – perhaps more than I need to. I believe it’s to my readers’ benefit to explain too much than to leave them hanging with too little information, however. After all, I don’t want you hanging off of a cliff somewhere because I only told you how to get up the crag and not how to get back down! There are certain instances where I love to add detail, too, I’ve found. For example, I love to add as much detail as possible in my descriptions of a special experience or a piece of gear that I’m particularly keen on. I put as much detail as I can into procedures that I’ve learned, too, so that I don’t forget anything. I’ve accomplished periphrasis! Although most would consider that a bad thing, I think it’s rather humorous because it’s something that so many professors poured countless hours into trying to get me hooked on in my writing when there was a minimum page count involved in a project that it bordered upon torture. It sure caused them a lot of stress! If only they could see me now, haha!