Wrestling match

I refer word wrestlers to the fascinating match played out in the comments of Kelvin’s blog.  The Campaign for Plain English would not approve.  That website is worth a visit for the hilarious examples in the Golden Bull awards.

I find myself, as ever, in two camps.  When I run writing seminars, I advocate simplicity, citing a piece of research run by the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology. The same piece of scientific information was written up in two ways and attributed to mythical writers, Brown and Smith.  ‘Brown’s’ was convoluted using long sentences and long words, ‘Smith’s’ was simple and direct.  Not only did scientist readers prefer the simple version but they believed ‘Smith’ to be the better thinker, more credible.  Both passages used only 5 technical words – the difference was in the use of ordinary language.  (Source: Effective Writing by Christopher Turk and John Kirkman)

But ‘big words’ are fun!  And sometimes necessary.  If the range of vocabulary reduces, subtlety of thought will diminish.  The glory of English is the number of nuanced variants available to us.  Use it or lose it!   

Had to check the proofs of the play which will appear in the autumn in Scottish Plays for Schools.  I’m not the world’s greatest proof reader but it’s amazing how much easier it is to concentrate when you have a vested interest in the text ie when it’s your own.  But of course there’s the danger of seeing what you expect to see and not what’s actually printed.  Reading with the ear as well as the eye is the thing.  I pick up an error or an infelicity (there’s a poser of word) when I read my work aloud. 


5 Responses to “Wrestling match”

  1. 1 wonderfulexchange July 4, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    I used to teach my students that the right word was always the simplest one that said just what you needed it to. Which sometimes means the right word is complex.

    But in the case of Kelvin’s blog, I suspect language was the medium of play rather than (strictly) a tool for communication. And as with all games, the point of it would elude many.

  2. 2 alisonwriting July 5, 2007 at 7:50 am

    Apparently Plato said that we can learn more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation. I like that!

  3. 3 chris July 5, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Doing your own proof reading is the pits. I always call in Mr b – he sees far more than I do!

  4. 4 alisonwriting July 5, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Sure! I use ABF when I need to but this was the ‘author’ one where only you can pick up stuff that’s not wot you wrote (as distinct from typos, grammatical errors etc) Who Mr B?

  5. 5 chris July 5, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    My coy online name for the man in my life – Mr Blethers! (It’s revenge for all these years of conventionally being called by his name)

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