Today I was reading the BBC website (you may have noticed I do that a lot), and I came across this article.  The first sentence is

The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “a profoundly man-made disaster”, a Japanese parliamentary panel has said in a report.

Uh… yeah.  Nuclear plants don’t grow on trees.  They were made by humans, so any disaster involving them is man-made, right?

It got me thinking.  One of the major pieces of advice given to writers is to cut out all of the useless words.  But how useless do words have to be before they should be cut?

To me, a statement that a nuclear disaster is man-made is a bit pointless.  Others might see it differently (and, when you read the article, they don’t really mean the disaster itself, but the human reactions and responses which made it worse than it could have been).

On the other hand, I think everyone can agree that “he thought to himself” is a little redundant.  Unless the book has telepathy, I suppose.

So where do you draw the line in your own writing?  Does it depend on the style of book or the target audience?  Can you give an example of a sentence which you thought was fine but others thought was pointless?  Or, more interestingly, the other way around?

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