Omit Needless Words

Andy Naselli —  October 18, 2011 — 5 Comments

I agree with Jim.

James M. Hamilton Jr., “Appreciation, Agreement, and a Few Minor Quibbles: A Response to G. K. Beale,” Midwestern Journal of Theology 10, no. 1 (2011): 67:

I want to register a stylistic complaint. Beale is prolix. It’s as though he is exclaiming, “Why should I say in three words what I can expand to ten?!” In the “Introduction” to “the little book,” E. B. White epitomizes Professor Strunk: “‘Omit needless words!’ cries the author on page 23, and into that imperative Will Strunk really put his heart and soul.” Imagine the pleasure Strunk would take eliminating words from Beale’s oeuvre. To take one example, consider the title of his second lecture, “The Inaugurated End-Time Tribulation and Its Bearing on the Church Office of Elder and on Christian Living in General.” Edwardsian in its fullness, but would not “Elders and the End-Times” have been sufficient? I love the ideas that Beale communicates, but I wonder whether he hopes to be paid on the Dickensian wage (critics of Charles Dickens complain that his books are so long because he was paid a penny a word).

5 responses to Omit Needless Words

  1. Ironically, if I were Strunk, I would remove the words “prolix” and “oeuvre” from Hamilton’s review. By using these words, he falls into the same sesquipedalian trap that he criticizes…

    Yes, Strunk would roll his eyes at that word as well.

  2. Haha. I have the same problem (but I need to omit needless parentheses). This is probably why I love Beale. He is definitely not reductionist, which is a complaint I have with some evangelical theology.
    I had a professor that used to challenge us to use “an economy of words”, but how can you when you are talking about the “God’s Inaugurated Expanding Cosmic Dwelling of Creation through the Church as the Inaugurated Eschatological Temple.” ;)

    BTW, He lost me at prolix and ouevre. I took longer for me to look them up than to read “unnecessarily wordy” and “life’s work”. If people actually used these words that would be cool. But to lodge the complaint against Beale for being tediously long-winded, while in an effort to be concise he uses words many do not understand might be a bit incongruous, if not mendacious. ;)

  3. Would you care to elaborate on that, Andy?

  4. Sure: I value clear, concise writing. :-)

  5. If Hamilton were writing for Lifeway’s Sunday school curriculum, sure, “prolix” and “oeuvre” would be inappropriate. However, since he wrote it for a theological journal, he probably had his audience in mind. We should always cut our words without compromising clarity. For what it’s worth, I think Hamilton is spot on.

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