the commuter's eye

on good wording

Posted in how tos, on wording and writing by martzipan on July 27, 2011

a funny and edifying excerpt from doug newsom and jim haynes’ public relations writing. form & style, 8th edition, thomson wadsworth, 2008, p. 112

Some writers can’t resist filling their prose with important-sounding phrases like “integrated conceptual analysis” or similar verbose nonsense. At least twice in every sentence they use words ending in -ment, -any, -ial, -ization, -action and -ability. Avoid such words when you can. They make reading more difficult and diminish the forcefulness of your statement. As public relations writer Alden S. Wood asks, who would have responded to these words?

Retain your earth! Abstain from engagement in interpersonal ballistic relationships unless these relationships are initiated by the power incumbents. If, however, it becomes apparent that overt hostile interaction is to commence, let this commencement have its genesis in this geopolitical region.

The average sentence length in this paragraph is less than 14 words. But the words are so foggy that the meaning is completely lost. Fortunately, Captain John Parker didn’t talk like that. Instead he uttered the famous command, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”