Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Writing like a fifth-grader

A quick plug: I've got a new piece up today at Nieman Storyboard, part of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. (The Nieman folks are the ones who offer the fellowship that I was on for the last school year.)

The piece is about writing in a simple way, which is something I try (and often fail) to do. Would love to hear how y'all think about how you write, whether it's something professional or just an e-mail to the family.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I write in incoherent sentences, with dropped words and all. Yet oddly the message gets across, inciting some new found strength in all who digest my words encouraging a visionary process where thought turns into action and action into results. It's like Samantha Stevens twitching her nose, she didn't go to school for that you know, it just kinda happens when she wanted something done...

I think it is the excessive comma gene I inherited through osmosis by reading Omni magazine way back when. It is like obama "inherited Bushes problems". He really didn't inherit the problems he paid for them by running for office, he says he inherited them so he has something to blame his failed agenda on when it fails.

See how it works? Simple right?

Now what is this all about, and wheres the good ink Tommy?

Anonymous said...

Despite the vast differences it their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.

Michael said...

G. K. Chesterton would completely agree with you. He said that it was a good exercise to sometimes intentionally write using the simplest words possible. He said that people often try to hide behind long words, but that when you write simply, you have to just say what you mean, and therefore you actually have to think about what you mean. Of course, the way he said it was better and much wittier. But I'm too lazy to actually look the quote up.

Cedar Posts said...

I get a lot of grief for using 400 words to say the sun came up.

But I've always written like Cormac McCarthy when I'm in the zone.

Even Pat Conroy's new novel South of Broad, opening lines:

"It was my father who called the city the mansion on the river

He was talking about Charleston, South Carolina and he was a native son, peacock proud of a town so pretty it makes your eyes ache with pleasure just to walk down it spellbinding, narrow streets."

Turns some people off as they are in a hurry and would prefer "it was a nice place".

Conroy was offered a job as a reporter on Charleston's News and Courier after graduating from The Citadel.

He remembers an editor warned him: "We'll have to excavate your prose. You seem not to have ever learned the elegance of simplicity."

So he passed on the job and went on to bigger things.

Anita <>< said...

I write like I talk: full speed ahead! To me, it's like I'm carrying on a conversation with someone in my head, but it's coming out through my fingers dancing across the keyboard.
I also dig into my senses, and try to describe what I see, hear, taste, smell, and feel.
Occasionally, I write for my own personal emotional therapy. There's something healing about writing down innermost thoughts and feelings and then putting a "." at the end. It seems to give me permission to say, "OK that's over. You can move past it." However, writing like that can be difficult -- ever tried to use a laptop when you're lying on a couch? (grin)

Jedidiah Springfield said...

I transcribulate with the embullience of mendicants.

MichaelProcton said...

I write with lots of big words and huge sentences. My readability scores on Word are, well, less than ideal, but at least my writing level is really high. Haha.

Pamelabj said...

I am a better writer now than I was in college. I look at my college papers and cringe at the huge vocabulary words plopped down in the middle of sentences to impress my professors. I am a conversational writer, which has served me well in this email age.

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