It seems to me that society becomes increasingly more obsessed with what isn’t in products than what is. One only has walk the supermarket aisles. Labels scream at you: no fat, no cholesterol, no gluten, no artificial colours, no added sugar, no salt, and on a bottle of hair conditioner I saw one hadn’t seen before: no silicone.
While all those things (except perhaps the silicone in hair conditioner) have been shown to be harmful in quantity, it seems to me that we seem to succumb to a culture of blaming a single thing for all that’s wrong in our lives. If only we omitted fat, sugar, cholesterol, salt, etc etc then we’d be healthy and happy.
But, surprise, surprise, in small amounts fat, sugars, salt, and even cholesterol are essential components of our diet. Cutting them out altogether will lead to a much poorer diet except for those proven allergic to the component in question.
Everything in moderation.
It strikes me that this is much like writing.
Writers are often told to cut adverbs, cut adjectives, cut reliance on the word ‘was’, or cut out all instances of a list of ‘forbidden’ words, a list which usually includes the words ‘suddenly’ and ‘that’.
You know what is worse than a piece of fiction where the word ‘was’ occurs at least once every sentence? One in which it doesn’t occur at all.
All these words, structures and verb forms have developed in the language for a reason. That means that occasionally you need them. In other occasions, the offending piece of text can be avoided only by mangling the sentence to such extent it becomes laughable. This tends to happen when writers become overly obsessed with cutting out ‘passive’ writing. Even passive tense has a function and that means sometimes a sentence using passive tense will be infinitely better than one without.
A piece of writing with no ‘telling’ may well include long boring passages that would be better covered in a few sentences.
So while these ‘rules’ are good practice, don’t follow them off a cliff, OK?
That said, I’m still baffled as to why people worry about silicone in hair conditioner.