Remember the purpose of language

Everything I know about writing clearly I learned from Mrs. Parker.

When I got to Duquesne University, they placed me in Honor’s English with Mrs. Parker. For our first assignment I pulled out all the stops. The essay was dense with the fancy syntax and thesaurus vocabulary for which I had been rewarded in high school. Imagine my surprise when Mrs. Parker chose my paper to display to the class on the overhead projector — as an example of how NOT to.

What Mrs. Parker wrote at the end of that paper resounds in everything I’ve done since then as a writer:

Never sacrifice clarity, accuracy, meaning, for writing which sounds good, intelligent, knowledgeable. Remember that the purpose of language is to convey/reveal truth, not to obfuscate and confuse.

 

3 Responses to Remember the purpose of language

  1. Maria Bolanos March 16, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    I could not agree more. The written word is a communications tool.

    No need to dumb is down, the point is to convey a thought, an idea or a theory, so if the message does not come across, regardless of how beautiful the syntax, you have failed.

    Say want you mean and say it clearly.

  2. Ann Daly March 16, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    So true, Maria. “Clarify” does not mean “simplify.”

  3. Gay Edelman March 17, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Good advice. Reminds me of Strunk and White’s book Elements of Style, which, ahem, never goes out of style!

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