the excess use of words; long-windedness
Prolixity (from Latin prolixus, extended, also called verbosity and garrulousness) in language refers to speech or writing which uses an excess of words. Adjectival forms include prolix, verbose, and garrulous.
ExamplesIn writing, prolixity can take many forms, including:
Excess description: Writing that is overflowing with ornate or flowery adjective-heavy language is known as purple prose. Tastes vary widely in this regard. What was once considered enthralling description can be considered excess by a later generation. An example:
- The tips of the cottonwoods and the oaks waved to the east, and the rings of aspens along the terraces twinkled their myriad of bright faces in fleet and glancing gleam.
Long phrases: Often one word can take the place of an entire phrase, with little loss to the idea or feeling.
Simile and metaphor: Used properly, simile and metaphor can add life to communication. Overuse can become overbearing.
- Their accounts of the affair came as close as newspapers usually come—as close as Mars is to Saturn.
Assuming it fits the context, this simile might not be considered excessive if it was the only one used in several pages. If one of several in just a few paragraphs, however, it might be counterproductive.
Stating the obvious:
- She came over near me and smiled with her mouth and she had little sharp predatory teeth. ... He walked slowly across the floor towards us and the girl jerked away from me...
- We made advance reservations for 12 noon, my fellow classmates and I, eager to meet together again and renew a common bond which dates back to when we were young lads.
- My classmates and I made reservations for noon, eager to meet and renew a bond which dates to when we were lads.
Note that not all redundant expressions are easily discarded without stilting the language. Replacing foretell the future in "Could she really foretell the future?" with prognosticate may be far worse than a redundancy which has become accepted idiom. Similarly, some might prefer which dates back to to which dates to in the example above, depending upon context (though either phrase could easily be replaced with the single word from, or with which dates from.)
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