Peer to Peer Magazine

Fall 2014: Security Is Everyone's Business

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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One Question No Software Developer Has Ever Been Asked How many unnecessary lines of code should you program into a piece of software? No software developer has ever been asked that question because the answer is always "zero" (even in the Easter eggs). Unnecessary code gets in the way of the necessary code trying to do its job. Because you admire elegant code, more than any other profession you can appreciate why a sentence should contain no unnecessary words: unnecessary words get in the way of the words trying to do their job — convey meaning to a reader. Strunk & White said it succinctly in their famous rule*, "13. Omit Needless Words": "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts." Were Professor Strunk and E. B. White writing The Elements of Style today, they would include another comparison: ". . . for the same reason software should have no unnecessary code." If you do not remove the unnecessary words, then your reader must subliminally sort through them: Which words do I need in this sentence to understand what this person's trying to tell me? Good writers remove the unnecessary words so each remaining word conveys meaning to the reader. But how do we know which words are unnecessary? A finite set of seven signs (six words and the period) will help. Whenever we see one, we look around it for words that add no meaning to the sentence. These simple signs and a few others inspired the six patents underlying the WordRake technology: it, that, in, of, ., as, and or. "Less is more" was penned first by poet Robert Browning and later adopted as a guiding principle of minimalist design. Used countless times since in other contexts, the old adage still applies to words but with a slight twist: "fewer are more." To help you get to "fewer," Gary invokes Strunk and White, those original developers of elegant word design, for a simple method to help you find the unnecessary words in your sentences. If you have questions regarding grammar, usage, style or any component of writing, please visit my blog at and post a comment. Gary and I will respond, and we'll build a nice collection of tidbits over time. Randi Mayes Gary Kinder PEER TO PEER: THE QUARTERLY MAGA ZINE OF ILTA 90

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