I have a nice little paperback called The Lively Art of Writing that I use when composing some of my business emails. It’s a 1965 publication that I got for a dime at a library sale. 1965 must have been pre-political correctness because they sure didn’t bother to mince words.
In a discussion about style, the author – with the fearsome-sounding name of Lucille Vaughan Payne – lashes out against the Terrible Three: the -wise suffix, type vs. type of and manner and nature phrases. Regarding manner and nature, the advice is this:
Manner and nature are the pet words of the pompous, the long-winded, and the empty-headed. They are nearly always redundant. In a polite manner means "politely". Comprehensive in nature (or of a comprehensive nature) means "comprehensively."
To use manner and nature in phrases like those above is to indicate one of two things: you are deliberately padding a sentence, or you have deluded yourself into thinking such phrases sound dignified. In either case, the effect is annoying.
Lucille is a straight shooter. A few pages later, she sets her sights on trite expressions. Following this advice would put me and quite a few other bloggers right out of business:
Avoid the stale, ready-made expressions that have become overfamiliar and tiresome through constant use by second-rate speakers and third rate writers. The following list of trite expressions is far from exhaustive, but it’s representative:
acid test ~ as luck would have it ~ better late than never ~ bitter end ~ busy as a bee ~ depths of despair ~ easier said than done ~ festive occasion ~ few and far between ~ finer things in life ~ green with envy ~ last but not least ~Mother nature ~ needless to say ~ rich and varied experience ~ ripe old age ~ sadder but wiser ~ slow but sure ~ untold agony ~ words cannot express
(As much as Lucille seems to enjoy firmly putting second-rate speakers and third-rate writers in their place, I don’t mind at all as long as she keeps her distance from my most fondly-used phrase: doesn’t know his ass from his elbow, followed closely by the chicken shit/ chicken salad comparison.)
Another pet peeve here is "the Solemn Vapors, a writer’s disease brought on by excessive use of big, general words when a simple word will do." The example given is:
"Happiness is a warm puppy."
" One characteristic of the condition of happiness is a quality of contentment or pleasure associated with complete physical comfort, satisfaction with a given environment and a sense of being loved."
Lucille starts out by describing the hazard as "tempting the writer into believing he has said something profound when he may actually have said nothing at all", and then she zings it home by stating that " the symptoms of the Solemn Vapors often include misty eyes, outthrust jaw, a tendency to clench the fists, and a warm feeling of self-righteousness in the area of the breastbone."
This one cuts the legs right out from under me because I get a lot of pleasure out of employing the Solemn Vapors. Good thing they didn’t have blogs in 1965 or we’d all be sitting around with nothing to do.