On writing and verbosity

When having to write an essay in English (although the following probably applies to all languages), many people have the annoying habit of purposely complicating their writing. See the following examples (courtesy of an anecdote by theoretical physicist Richard Feynman):

“The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels.”

“The medical community indicates that a program of downsizing average total daily caloric intake is maximally efficacious in the field of proactive weight-reduction methodologies.”

Those familiar with academia will instantly recognize the one of the reasons behind the incomprehensibility of the above sentences: the wish to look smart (in the readers’ eyes). However, people guilty of the former forget (or do not know) that in writing, like in technology (e.g. the iPhone), simplicity is king: write succinctly, always.

I mean, just imagine if the following celebrated gaming moment used excessive verbosity:

““My dear sir plumber journeyman, I wish to express my gratitude towards your person and personal quest to aid the individual popularly known as the princess; alas, the present misalignment of the constellations have resulted in a most unfortunate situation: it appears the ruler of the kingdom, the person in whose sake you have embarked on a most dangerous and perilous journey, is currently missing from this location. Rather, the whereabouts of this city state’s said lawmaker most likely reside in an unknown locale; however, it is to your great fortune that I, your ever humble servant, have some limited yet descriptive knowledge of the architecture of the edifice our great blueblood could potentially be in: it is a building whose origins clearly reside in feudal times; initially used with defensive purposes in mind, said constructions now also function as places of residence for important aristocracy.”

Somehow, the original is easier to understand

Somehow, the original sentence is easier to understand

And if you haven’t yet deciphered the meaning of the two hieroglyphs above, they say “people read” and “doctors say a good way to lose weight is to eat less.”


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