The Art of Plain Language

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English―it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them―then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”― Mark Twain

When you understand something, you can speak simply, and clearly, because you are comfortable that what you are communicating can be understood.

I notice some self professed smart people who use language that is beyond comprehension, as if they believe thinkers they admire can’t seem to do the same when speaking to the public.

When you pick up a philosophy book, or any book specializing on a comprehensive subject, you must keep in mind the audience.

An intelligent mind should also recognize his audience. Then cater to it. Always err on the side of caution and speak simply. Always. Remove excess words. Avoid long sentences, unless it communicates a sentiment with precision. If you can be clearer, and write fewer words, do it. Your reader must work to read, and you don’t want them working any harder than they have to, otherwise they won’t be reading much longer. However, if you manage to get their attention, and you manage to reel it in specifically, so that their focus hangs on your every word without effort at all, then you may forget about adding or removing. The point of it all is being clear. Simplicity is often the best way to clarify.

There is power in precision.

Precision is pointed. It exists at the tip, and is strong and sharp. Aim for precision. Aim for power. Let your words slice deep.


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