I need to prune/abridge my essay

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dreamlike

Senior Member
Polish
Hi everyone :)

Suppose you were writing an essay and there was some word limit you happened to went over by, say, 80 words. Clearly, some part of your writing calls for removal. What is the word you would be most likely to use in the situation described?

(1) I need to prune my essay (My essay needs a little pruning)
(2) I need to abridge my essay (My essay needs a little abridgment)

I have reservations about "abridge" - does it imply that the information one is about to remove is irrelevant? Let's imagine, for the sake of this thread, that one will have a hard time choosing the bits that can be removed - I take it that "abridge" doesn't really work then. Is that true?
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    If you check the dictionary definition of abridge, you should find that it implies no loss of meaning. If you were chatting to a friend it would be more colloquial to say prune, although, strictly speaking, that does not exclude the possibility that you are deleting relevant content.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I had checked the dictionary definition of abridge prior to starting this thread, Andy. Cambridge's entry for "abridge" reads:
    to make a book, play or piece of writing shorter by removing details and information that is not important
    This led me to believe that "abridge" is not appriopriate in my context. As I said, let's suppose that one will have difficulty choosing the bits that can be deleted. There are no information and there are no details that can be labelled as "unimportant". ABRIDGED, to my mind, connotes books or whatever, that were deprived of some details and information to make it easier to comprehend, e.g. abridged books for children.

    If one decides to prune an essay, there's always the possibility that relevant content will be removed - staying within the word limit should come first, though.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    dreamlike, did you click my link in message #2? - that takes you to the entry in the WR (=Oxford) Dictionary. It seems that the Oxford/Cambridge divide includes a minor disagreement over the meaning of abridge. However, if the details you remove are not important then perhaps they should not have been in the essay in the first place. If you abridge your essay the meaning should be unchanged.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    All right, I take it that both "prune" and "abridge" work in this context. Although, I'm under the impression that, most often, one abridges something to primarily make it easier to understand - the reduced number of words is an inevitable (and logical) side-effect, so to speak.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Yes, I know, but I wanted my query firstly to concern the difference between "prune" and "abridge", if there's one. In the context I provided, there doesn't seem to be any, but I really think that "ABRIDGED connotes books or whatever, that were deprived of some details and information to make it easier to comprehend"​, to repeat myself.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I'd use prune (or trim, which kind of amounts to the same thing), DL.

    I'm not sure I've ever used the transitive verb abridge in my life. I'm most used to seeing it: (1) on the title pages of books, as you mentioned in post #3*: Abridged for children (or younger readers) by Susan Briggs; and (2) in the credits of TV series: Abridged for TV by Thomas Bowdler. Like it or not, it does invariably mean in those circumstances 'made shorter and easier': for that reason alone I wouldn't use it if I just meant 'reduced in length'.

    As I see it the advantage of prune or trim is that they both mean 'take small parts off wherever one chooses or sees fit'. Abridgement entails a more (erm) comprehensive approach to the thing.

    With apologies to Andy:D

    EDIT: * And 5 and 7 ~ I went out for a ciggie in the middle of typing all this.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you Ewie, everything's clear now :) That's exactly the point I wanted to make (did I succeed in doing so?) - now that I read your post I'm completely sure that I wouldn't use abridge to mean just "reduced in lenght", too. And that's the context in question.
     
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