I sometimes don’t see the point in meretriciousness. I find sentences so overzealous in delivering an image or an idea that they inadvertently bury the image or the idea beneath a mountain of synonyms. In every instance where a word sounds too simple, too regular, too familiar to the novice’s eye, another that sounds more sophisticated or that doesn’t as often peek out the dictionary is sought; and no sooner do the sentences grow to extensive lengths, creating in themselves a labyrinth from which the reader can never escape. What is the point then in employing so many profound words, and disdaining their more diminutive siblings, when in the end nothing is established? Will it not be far better to write simply but with accuracy, and let the reader traverse the sentence comfortably to its destination?
It may seem as if I have a sort of distaste for fanciful words, but that is hardly the case. I love fancy and I fanciful writing even more so. But what I dislike is those words being used in a forcible manner. Sometimes they are used solely that a writer may profess his supposed talent in writing or his well-bred sophistication. And because that is solely his intent, he pays no attention to the subtleties of the synonym, taking heed only of its obscurity and the number of syllables it contains, and carelessly fixes it in the place where a simpler word used to lodge. Hardly does he realize that by unnecessarily replacing those words, the sentence begins to crumble – so light an idea was never meant to bear so heavy a weight.
If ever one develops a lust for ostentation, at least use those big words in a less blatant fashion.
I am currently taking class on how to write better emails. It is a compulsory class and I have doubts about its usefulness.
We are taught, in writing every sort of letter, to conceal the crux, only to reveal it at a more opportune time later on. Opportune here apparently refers to after we’ve finished rambling about some related affair or masking reality in a glittery masquerade. Why not just be straight-forward? To this we are swiftly answered that we must always ease the recipient into the information; drown him in preambles so that he may discover the true intention through blurry lenses, commend him so that he might plummet from an even higher place, and ever more indignantly, into despair, or let him stare into the telescope long enough for him to become frustrated at your not having told him what to look at.
Formalities, formalities. Yet business has no time for formalities. It dispenses with it in such haste that were they to be forced upon its citizens, volcanic fury would surely erupt. And then, would not the meticulousness with which the letter had been crafted have worked so disastrously to the contrary?
To what end should a literary style take hold of writing?
A piece of writing may be as beautiful as the Corsican stars or as nearly sophisticated as a Kierkegaard ramble, but if it is to everyone else (that is, apart from the writer himself) an incomprehensible tangle of words, a repulsive concoction of verbosity, a work of art whose smears and brushes none can decipher, then it might as well be garbage.
The primary motive of writing is to communicate ideas. Thus is formed the fundamental duty of a writer.
Were I to write something convoluted and full of obscured words, many would probably offer it no more than a quick glance. They shall consume the first sentence in ease, but upon realizing the tediousness of digesting the whole, retract their minds immediately. What I had intended to say is then smothered as much by the lyricism as by the incomprehensibility of it all, and as a writer, I am really no more masterful than a toddler who still thinks the pen a magical creature; as a writer, I have failed to perform my fundamental and foremost duty.
Should I then write as simply as I can, and for the sole sake of clarity? This age is one that demands instant information; not gouaches paintings that by its nature blurs the once definite landscape, and which invites the viewer to make sense of it all through keen observation and an expanding of the mind’s imagination. Clarity and simplicity thus becomes the sin qua non of every piece of writing that wishes itself to be read and understood, while flavorful adjectives, like goods no longer desired in the market, are miserly banished.
It seems that if one truly wished to be a better writer, or at least one more understood, one needs only write more simply. Yet, what if one found a tremendous joy in writing in those absurdly fanciful manners? What if metaphors and a queer configuration of words gave him a sense of delight that nothing else could? What if he tries to write in the tritest manner possible and in alignment with the single principle that is clarity, and finds his pen moving sluggishly, as if uninspired and languished by the sheer monotony? This is his dilemma. He has to wonder which is worth more to him – the satisfaction at being read and understood, or the joy in imaginative chemistry.
How quite fascinating the english language is. Were I to say that I merely wish to be human, it would mean slightly different from saying that I wish merely to be human. The former places the emphasis on my desire rather than the desire. That very desire within me, to be granted something not at all unreasonable or unattainable, thus forms the pinnacle of the statement. The latter, however, places the emphasis on the desire rather than my desire. The issue here is not so much contained in the reasonableness of my desire as it is in the ordinariness of that which I desire; that is, to be human is elementary.
To afford a greater sense of parallelism to all this: the former implies that since the desire to be human is elementary and not unreasonable, I should not forbid myself from wishing such, while the latter implies that since to be human is elementary and not unreasonable, I should not forbid myself from wishing such.
There are undoubtedly a myriad other examples whereby a small, seemingly inconsequential rearrangement of words effects a disproportionately more significant change in meaning and intention. Such subtleties do indeed form the true, often overlooked beauty of language.
I used to be, as a younger student, so concerned about my essay not containing enough ‘big’ words. Sesquipedalianism, it seemed, was what distinguished an excellent essay from a poor one – a thinking which I had adopted after being praised by the teacher for using the more obscured and ornamental synonyms of simple words. “Pusillanimous”, “verisimilitude” and “pulchritudinous” were among my favorites.
Not two days ago, I chanced upon a dust-crusted piece conceived during those years of compulsive loquaciousness, and as I read through it, I thought it absolutely mediocre. It was however not due to a disparaging lack of simplicity, which so often is the problem of ambitiously pompous work, but to the stark dissonance between the splendor of the words and the sophistication in grammar. My sentence structures were trite, and bore no elegance once stripped of its meretriciousness by the experienced and initiated, leading those snake-like words to annoy rather than impress. I cannot seem to amply express my annoyance but if I were example you with an analogy, it would be like seeing a person win a poetry competition by memorizing a poem he had read before – it is but a grotesque pretence of skill.
Just as a constellation is not defined by the individual stars, the beauty of a sentence is not defined by the individual words but rather by the allure of the amalgam.
I fail to understand why it is sometimes, when I feel so utterly compelled to write about something, that I am never able to express it with coherence and clarity and paint for the viewer a resplendent replica of what is seen in my mind. Even right now, I struggle to form the next sentence, slyly employing meretricious language to make the post seem less sparse. I think because there swirls in my mind a multitude of ideas that the tempestuousness of it all incessantly disrupts my thoughts, leaving my pen aimless and confused.
What I shall need is a more a decisive and disciplined mind; one that can sieve through the foliage of information and find the beauteous flower that has been captivating my curiosity; one that will take no heed of peripheral distractions and devote all focus to the sole significant thought; one that every man, poet or writer covets most deeply.
And I shall need too a more prolific set of transcribing skills; for what good will be an idea, however extraordinary, if it subsists only in the cloistered space of my mind. I shall need my words to be as penetrating as the gaze of a lynx, as resounding as the echoes in a canyon, as persistent as the hum of nature, as provoking as temptation and as eternal as time. The road is sinuous, treacherous, and I fear I may never reach the summit of expression prowess. The only regret that afflicts me is my not having begun earlier in my readings and writings. But the past is not malleable and so, I will have to strive now, in spite of being disadvantaged by the late start and shackled by the myriad pleasures of our technological zeitgeist, to attain that clarity in expression and power in voice.