FELLOW WRITERS, DON’T USE BIG WORDS!

Fellow writers, don’t use big words!

May 16, 2017 – Fellow writers, don’t use big words!  As a man of the world, I have worn many hats over the years.  I have been a political pundit, fisherman, tourist guide, financial advisor, poet and an occasional writer.  But today for writing this article I am wearing my reader’s hat.

I hate it when writers use big words.  If you are what you eat, I must be plain vanilla.  And if you are what you read, I must be nursery rhymes.  For me, the simpler the better.  I do not like beating my brains out trying to find out what the writer means.  Every human being has an inborn desire to be heard through what they say and write.  Letting others know what’s on our mind is a basic human desire and it is a wonderful feeling when we are understood.  So what is the point of writing something that only you can understand?

 

“Missiles of ligneous or oterous consistency have the potential of fracturing my osceous structure, but appellations will eternally remain innocuous. “

 

What?!  It sounds good, but what the heck does it mean?  Who is the author trying to impress?  A reader is like a woman ready to be pursued, wined and dined.  I would like to be seduced by a writer through the use of seductive words and phrases in a language I can understand not in some foreign language.

 

“Judgment of any system, or a priori relationship or phenomenon exists in an irrational, or metaphysical, or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstract empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.”

 

The words of the above quotation are English but they might as well be Greek.  I have no idea what the sentence means.  Colleagues, write in such a way as if you are painting a clear and simple picture.  Do not create an abstract painting.  Write simply, clearly and concisely so that your writings are not open for interpretation.  Write in grade level 10 or lower if you can.  The lower the level, the better writer you are.  The Wall Street Journal is written in Grade 12 level while the New York Times in Grade 10 and the New York Daily News in Grade 8.  Do not include words that are superfluous and unnecessary or you might just fog up what you are trying to say.  In fact there is a term called “Fog Index” which includes a formula to measure readability and comprehension of a certain text and to determine what formal education is needed to understand such text.

 

“From a negative light, “Politics” has the horrifying stigma associated with the vile and stealthy manipulation of others for the benefit of a selfish gain masked in fake promises.

It is because of nescience, the lack of knowledge, or the perversion thereof that we position “politics” in the realm of the taboo and elevates “values” into the pedestal of sanctity. And will values be that asymptotic horizon that lies beyond the grasp of the average?”

 

I am sure the author of the above group of sentences has something worthy to say.  But his message is lost in the fog, and at least for me I got a headache just reading the text.  To try to interpret the passages might give me agita so I gave up. The writer no doubt is well educated and I am sure he knows what he means.  But he fails to realize that readers who did not attain the same level of education he did will need a dictionary to get through the agonizing process of reading his work to the end.  Perhaps the writer wants to elevate the reader’s comprehension to his level and help his readers build a better vocabulary, but a column in a magazine is not the proper forum to do it.  Reading a piece should be an informative and entertaining experience and should not be as if the reader is going through a creative writing exam.  There are professor-type writers who are sincere in their desire to impart their knowledge.  But there are also vanity writers, charlatans and timewasters who think big words will help boost their reputation as a writer to the detriment of comprehension.  Hey, I can do that too.  I can write “a farrago of footlers” instead of “a bunch of lazy people”.  But why?  My job as a writer is to keep my reader interested and engaged.  If I cannot do that I do not deserve to write.

 

So my message to the writer who uses big words, and with all due respect:  It is not too late to change but you’re not getting any younger.  And my advice to you, again with all due respect, in the eloquent words of an anonymous college professor is:

 

“In promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable, philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your oral and written communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compact comprehensibleness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rodomontade or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolixity, setaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity and vaniloquent vapidity. Shun double-entendres, prurient pscosity, and pestiferous profanity, obscurant or apparent.”

 

In other words, say or write what you mean and DON’T USE BIG WORDS!

Why wait until retirement to explore the world?

Travel used to be unaffordable.  Many Americans waited till retirement when they felt they had enough money to explore the world.  Believe me, the money you will spend traveling is money well spent.  By retirement age most people are not fit enough to climb up and down tour buses, let alone walk to tourist attractions to take pictures.  Whenever I join sightseeing tours, I always feel sorry for senior citizens who beg the tour guides to let them remain on the bus on stop-overs requiring a short walk to a certain tourist spot.

Why wait until retirement to explore the world?  Why not do it now and enrich your life and the lives of your children?    Take two meaningful trips every year. Explore the national parks for at least two weeks in summer and go overseas for at least a week between November and New Year’s Day.  Most companies offer a 2-week paid vacation each year, and many companies offer 3 weeks after a certain period of employment.  Most companies in Western Europe offer at least one month vacation every year.  Travel is easier than you think. Nowadays, you do not need a travel agent.  You yourself, on your own, can book your flights, car rentals and hotels online through the following websites, Travelocity, Orbitz, PriceLine, Kayak, Expedia, TravelAdvisor.com, Hotel.com, and Bookings.com. For local sightseeing tours, I like Grayline and Viator.  You can snag some “real bargains” from the above-mentioned websites such as:  $125 a night at Elbow Beach Hotel in Bermuda in the month of May and accommodations at four star hotels for about $100 per night during the low season in Rome, Paris, London, Munich, Amsterdam and Geneva. Because I have been following my own advice, I have visited most of America’s 58 National Parks.  My favorites are Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Glacier Bay, Grand Canyons, Yellowstone, Sequoia and Volcanoes National Park. I love driving so I do not mind driving thousands of miles while enjoying the scenery on the way to a certain destination.  Some of the most scenic routes I’ve driven on in America are from Hilo to Kona in the big island of Hawaii; Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz; Highway 5 Sacramento to Vancouver, Canada;  Highway 70 Denver to Provo;  Highway 191 Crescent Junction to Bluff; Highway 89A from Lake Powell to Kanab; Lolo Pass Road from Mt. Hood Highway 26 to Lost Lake, Oregon;  Highway 75 from Sault St. Marie to Mackinaw City;  Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park;  Taconic State Parkway, N.Y. State;  Highway 81 from Scranton to Syracuse.  Whenever time permits, I find a way to rent a car to take in the scenery and explore the countryside even in foreign countries. The most memorable road trips I’ve taken were from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara; London to Bristol; Chamonix to Pisa; Salzburg to Venice; Torino to Rome and Berlin to Luxembourg.  I estimate that I have spent over $200,000 in travel expenses in the past 20 years.  For me, this is money well spent.  Travel has been good for my family and me, for our health and well-being.  My children had travelled to several foreign destinations before entering high school.  The priceless experiences opened their eyes on how other people outside America live, on what side of the road they drive, the languages they speak, the food they eat, and most importantly, how lucky and privileged they are to be living in America.  I was born with wanderlust.  As soon as I complete one journey, I am planning and looking forward to the next one.  That is why I just don’t understand people who have not caught this “disease”.  I have a friend who can well afford to travel but who says he does not want to go to Hawaii because “it’s too far”.  There are those who fly to exotic places then sit by the pool reading a book and sipping margaritas…all day long.  I have a friend who goes to Cape Cod in the summer and flies to Las Vegas in November…year after year.

Whenever I travel to a new place, I like exploring the food, talking to locals even in sign language and going to the market places where locals go.  I can only hope that the reader will catch wanderlust and find themselves booking trips to wonderful destinations such as Bhutan; Maldives; Goa, India; Machu Picchu, Peru; Kathmandu, Nepal; Durban, South Africa; Alice Springs, Australia; Petra, Jordan; Masada National Park, Israel; Chamonix, France; Interlaken, Switzerland; Naples, Italy.  Before you leave this world, don’t you want to see the land of the midnight sun, the Alps, Pompeii, Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal and a phenomenon called Aurora Borealis?  Think of the money you will spend as a small investment for your mind and spirit.  Many years from now if you end up in a nursing home and cannot walk anymore, you might still remember those amazing trips that you took in your youth and tell stories of your wonderful experiences to anyone who would be kind enough to listen.