Saturday, January 16, 2010

A big word for leaving out a little word

Sometimes creative or academic writers use artistic license in their writing. An example I have recently seen quite a bit is the use of asyndeton. How’s that for a grammar vocabulary word! All it means is that the writer has left out the word and or a similar connecting word. A classic place to use an asyndeton, or an asyndetic writing style, is in a list. To create a sense of wistful incompleteness, suggestive of more to come, a writer might do this:

His eyes were blue, alert, piercing.

Their lives, voices, stories were being discounted, silenced.

Whoa, that last one contains two asyndetons! All this creative license affects the tone of the writing. The same sentences with the word and reinstated sound much more boring and ordinary:

His eyes were alert, blue, and piercing.

Their lives, voices, and stories were being discounted and silenced.

They also sound much more down-to-earth and factual, rather than suggestive and ethereal. So in business, technical, and training text, do I recommend using asyndeton? Absolutely not. But if you are being creative, go for it!


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