• Ejuen Armstrong

How to, uh, Make Your Writing Clearer




One of the problems with reading too much is that you end up with a wide vocabulary. Great, you say. Uh, no, hold on. That’s fine if you're writing inside your head, but you’re not.


When I think back to it, I recall those writers who wrote what I called inaccessible shit. I couldn’t comment on them because I didn’t know what the hell they were saying. A degree course is only so many years and I had assignments upon assignments thrown at me.


So, at university, after the first term, I stopped reading those writers.


You want 'The cat sat on the mat'.

That said, if you’re like me, you’re going to be a hypocrite. In your work you read and break down lots of argle gargle legalese. The shortest word you can think of is five syllables long. Your longest sentence is nearer seventy-five words than the standard twenty-seven or thereabouts.


So, you don’t want to read that at the end of the day. You want 'The cat sat on the mat'.


Except that when you’re writing fiction, your work is littered with argle bargle. Plus, you’ve got punctuation and you’re not afraid to use it. Semi-colons will be called upon to hide the fact that your first sentence only ended when it moved onto the next page.


It’s painful to admit that you write like self-refillable bag of wind. It’s like the little Scottish terrier-type dog that lives in the Pit of Godawful Stench in the movie Labyrinth. When asked how it can live with such a pong, it replies, 'Stench? What stench? The air is sweet and fragrant.'


No. The air of those double-barrelled indicative phrases and excessively semi-coloned breaks are stinking up the place. We need to fumigate.


How? You ask me. Well, yesterday I might have said, 'I dunno.'


Then I remembered giving some younger members of the family advice in building a robot. (Because I fancied meself as a systems analyst and AI designer, didn't I?) Well, by the time they’d finished with me I was down to gagagoo.


Use short sentences. Speak simply. Answer the question.

But it was a lesson in simplification. Use short sentences. Speak simply. Answer the question. Don’t confuse the reader. And most importantly, don’t bore her or him with the irretrievably mundane literary warble which, at the end of the day goes on and infinitum until your brain is no longer able to cope and then... and then your vocabulary fades away in a huff puff....wheeze because you can only squeeze a little bit more out of that windbag.


See me in three weeks when I may have more to argle bargle upon this matter ...

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