Author: Harriett Carter
“I never write “metropolis” for seven cents when I can write “city” and get paid the same.” – Mark Twain
Mark Twain – now there’s a man who knew a thing or two about writing.
Sadly, multisyllabic, convoluted verbosity is remarkably ubiquitous.
How many times did you have to read that sentence, just to understand its meaning?
Why don’t we try that in Plain English: “Text filled with long, meaningless words is everywhere.”
What is it that compels us to add syllables in our writing, for example: “utilise” instead of “use”; “facilitate” instead of “help”; or “commence” instead of “start”?
Or worse still, we compile lengthy sentences that run on for so long that our reader loses the will to keep reading!
The British TV series Yes Minister was brilliant for this:
“Sometimes one is forced to consider the possibility that affairs are being conducted in a manner which, all things being considered and making all possible allowances, is, not to put too fine a point on it, perhaps not entirely straightforward. Translation: ‘You are lying’.”
No doubt we’ve all been guilty of throwing these types of words and phrases into a work document at one stage or another, in the hope that our text would somehow sound more worthy.
In actual fact, complicated words simply complicate your writing.
Here’s a tip: next time you sit down to write a grant application, business letter or any piece of business communication, imagine you are saying the words to someone rather than writing them on a page.
This often helps you to get to the point and make sure your meaning is clear.
So, in the spirit of keeping things simple and in a nod to one of my favourites: the shorter and plainer the better (Beatrix Potter).