Clutter is the ponderous euphemism that turns a slum into a depressed socioeconomic area, garbage collectors into waste disposal personnel and the town dump into the volume reduction unit.
--On Writing Well by William Zinsser, page 13 (via IVP - Andy Unedited)

I couldn't understand the meaning of "volume reduction unit" in this sentence.

  • 1
    A unit for measuring reduction of volume. Dec 30 '15 at 9:20
  • 1
    That's not a "sentence" you've provided, it's a sentence fragment. Your question could be improved if you edited it, and provided a longer excerpt along with some information about where you found this. (See the "Provide as much context as possible" part of our Details, please post.)
    – J.R.
    Dec 30 '15 at 9:55
  • I provied the whole sentence.
    – vietphi
    Dec 30 '15 at 9:59

A volume reduction unit is machinery that reduces the volume of something, from my experience usually involving a liquid.

Reducing the volume of a liquid is usually achieved through evaporation.
Reducing the volume of a solid is achieved by compaction.
Reducing the volume of a sound can be achieved through noise cancellation or some method of volume control.

In your commented example, volume reduction of trash can be achieved by compaction and also combustion


The author is talking about verbosity, or a desire to make what one writes sound more ponderous and meaningful or more "official". "Clutter" is his pejorative term for this practice.

He gives three nouns (slum, garbage collectors, and town dump) along with their verbose versions.

Another example: yesterday on the radio someone said "put him in a state of incarceration" when he could have said "incarcerate him" or even "put him in prison".

  • Right. And being an example of clutter, it is not surprising that "volume reduction unit" is not in common use. We are not supposed to understand it. Dec 30 '15 at 16:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .