The process of writing is in large part a rewriting and an editing process. After the process of getting some text down, you begin the rearranging process and the snipping process. This process is—
Wait, let me try that again.
Writing is in large part rewriting and editing. After getting some text down, you begin rearranging and snipping. This is…
In my work as a copy-editor, especially with academic and business texts, I see superfluous process a lot. It’s a popular crutch word, established among writers’ unconscious bad habits.
In some texts it occurs so often as to dominate lines without adding anything vital or even useful (unless the aim is to bulk up the text). My opening lines, intended as mild parody, are similar to many I see in unedited writing. In a recent tweet, I reported:
Deleted ‘the process of’ five times from one paragraph and you wouldn’t believe how much easier it is to read now.
While an older one says:
Deleted the word ‘process’ three times from one line. Calling every process a process is like calling every object ‘the object X’.
Or referring to every person as ‘the figure of X’. The figure of the manager wants to finish the process of reviewing the document of the report. Try: The manager wants to finish reviewing the report.
If you’re describing a design process, a development process, a production process, any kind of process, try leaving out process. It’s not always advisable – the word has its uses – but there’s a good chance its omission will make your prose more intelligible and effective.
Getting rid of process is not a panacea: stodgy, unclear writing cannot be magicked into smooth, silky prose with one trick. Process often appears among a slew of other abstractions and convolutions:
But cutting process can be a good start: it makes it easier to see what else can be improved. For example, ‘X is in the process of creating Y at present’ becomes ‘X is creating Y at present.’ At present sticks out now: ‘X is creating Y.’ There we go.
‘The process of X involves a two-stage process’ is wordy and redundant. ‘X involves two stages’ is better, but involves is still a bit, well, involved. ‘X has two stages.’
Another: ‘We engaged in a consultation process with Z’ → ‘We engaged in consultation with Z’ → ‘We consulted with Z.’ And maybe consulted could be talked, or met, or discussed things.
Do this enough and you’ll hear the difference: the authorial voice is less forbidding, more normal. Ideas have room to breathe.
You’ll see the difference too. Paragraphs look roomier. What’s important is more visible, stripped of some of the filler that readers must ignore or convert in their minds into something more coherent.
Your readers’ time is precious, their attention often fitful and fragile. Abuse it and you’ll lose it.
In most contexts there’s nothing wrong with plain language. Some writers are suspicious of a phrase like ‘P regulates Q’, turning it into ‘P undergoes the process of the regulation of Q’ because they think it’s more impressive.
It’s not. As I wrote on Twitter, readers recoil from hyperformal writing. Plain language doesn’t oversimplify your text: it streamlines the information in it, putting less work on readers.
Some words are fancyisms, replacing plain-language alternatives. But with the process of (and the issue of, etc.), they can often just go. Snip. If you regularly write things like the process of X and the Y process, try writing X and Y.
This isn’t a rule. Process is not always gratuitous. You may need to show or stress that an activity is ongoing, not a one-step deal, in which case process may serve a useful purpose. But make sure it does before you sign off on it.
As writing advice goes, ‘omit needless words’ is trite and self-evident, but it has its moments. Every action is already a process. The process of adding the process of to your writing increases the cognitive load on people in the process of reading readers. Don’t make them process it needlessly.