User:FrJohn/thoughts on writing

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Thoughts on Writing

  • "[M]any of us write unclearly not because we choose to, but because we are seized by a kind of literary asphasia, a dismaying experience that renders us unable to write as well as we though we once could, or in some severe cases, unable to write at all. This typically happens when we are learning to think and write in a new academic or professional field, when we start to write about matters we do not entirely understand for readers who do. The afflicted include not just undergraduates taking their first course in economics or psychology, but graduate students, business people, doctors, lawyers, professors—anyone writing about a new topic, aimed at readers who are unfamiliar to them and therefore intimidating.
    As we struggle to master complex ideas, many of us, probably most of us, have to pass through this period of stylistic confusion. If you find yourself in that situation, your floundering should dismay you less if you know you are sharing an experience endured by generations of other writers. You will discover that you can write more clearly once you more clearly understand what you are writing about." - Joseph M. Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, 6th ed. (NY: Longman, 2000), p. 11
  • "Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers." - George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language
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