etc. 1 Comment

The last few weeks I have become obsessed with using ‘etc.’ in anything I write. It’s amazing shorthand for ‘you know what I’m saying here, just infer the rest.’ You put the reader on the start of a path with a little list or something, and then the etc. gives them a push to keep walking in whatever direction they’re facing.

All good writing hinges on implication. It’s what that black and blue horse, ‘show don’t tell,’ is getting at. Etc. does that work for you. I thought maybe it would be interesting to write a normal story and replace every full stop with an etc., if only it weren’t so painfully pretentious. But maybe it’s worth doing the opposite – pushing yourself to cut off the end of a story, paragraph or sentence early, maybe earlier than makes sense on first sight.

It seems that the more enjoyable a poem, story or book is, the more difficult it becomes to articulate why. Putting something into words will always take the edge off it, water it down and mix in some impurities. But if something works on a level of ‘etc. etc.’ then that never happens. Whatever the reader infers come bubbling up nice and fresh in her mind, where it isn’t formalised but remains this untouchable thing that has the ability to properly explode or crush them in that way only good writing can.

  • Emily Laidlaw

    You know what this immeadiately reminded me of?

    http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/my-sweet-old-etcetera/

    I adore the style of ee cummings poem. The last line ‘dreaming of your ‘et cetera’ is one of those lines that really stuck with me. He says so much by saying so little.

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