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Tuesday
Apr122011

Brevity definitely IS the soul of wit

This afternoon I found myself in an emotionally challenging superfluous text situation. In other words, I became somewhat “wound up” by having to waste my time reading a long-winded sentence that was clearly designed to demonstrate the erudition of the writer rather than facilitate the understanding of the reader.

Sorry, what I mean is, it was written to show off how clever the writer is, not help the reader understand anything. As you can see, this affliction is catching unless you’re constantly on your guard.

As I said in 10 attributes of professional writers -- #4: Make it readable,  the general rule is, the simpler the better. That is, unless you really don’t want the reader to understand what you’ve written.

There are very few instances where you need to use long words and complex phrases. Perhaps, if you’re dealing with a technical issue, you need to be very precise in your terminology, but even there I’d say that a difference is only a difference if it makes a difference. In other words, if you’re able to get the gist of your point across to a lay reader without employing technical jargon, then don’t do so – even if an expert reader might blanch at what seems to be your cavalier approach to the subject.

When I read the kind of stuff I was subjected to today, I don’t think how clever the author is, but the exact opposite: what an idiot he or she is. Who but an idiot, or someone with an ulterior motive, would want to make their output unintelligible?

That other post of mine I just mentioned references a few useful websites to consult if you’re interested in making your writing more readable. And if you feel like having a laugh then read Lucy Kellaway’s awards for management guff.

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Reader Comments (2)

Dear Terry: I like "Brevity difinitely is the soul of wit" on of the best in this series of articles. Yes, you could find the innermost thought process of an author. I think, you are correct. Most of the authors do this and ultimately spoil the goal of their writings. In this busy world as time is money, one can save lot of time if only we avoid complex sentences, language jargan, and technical words that can't help the average readers. Your points go well with the Web 2.0 educational model where most of the participants are from diverse background. Welldone Terry, you are really terrific in your convictions and expressions!
Regards, John Cyrus
April 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Cyrus
Thanks, John :-)
May 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterTerry Freedman

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