Choose your words carefully - Deepstash

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Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker: The No. 1 communication mistake that even smart people make

Choose your words carefully

Use words that will help people understand what you’re trying to say rather than words that are confusing or distracting.

Avoid using jargon, idioms and obscure metaphors.

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The root cause of bad writing
The root cause of bad writing

The root cause of bad writing is struggling to imagine what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. Whenever writing is loaded with jargon, clichés, technical terms, and abbreviations, two questions come to mind:

  1. What is the writer is trying to say?
  2. How can the writer state those ideas more clearly without using confusing language?
Why we write badly

When we become good at our job or hobby, we use catchwords to shorten long-winded descriptions that we have become very familiar with.

The problem is that these catchwords become automatic. While we think these words would facilitate our communication, we forget that our readers may not understand the concepts behind these shortened words.

How to write clearer
  • A considerate writer will add a few words of explanation to common technical terms, such as Arabidopsis, a flowering mustard plant.
  • Readers will appreciate many examples when you explain an idea..
  • If you write a sentence that makes you pause and think about what it means, assume your readers might react the same way.
  • Before publishing your writing, take a few moments to ensure that what you write is clear and understandable.
Letters Of Complaint

Be polite. The person who gets your letter will seldom be the one who wronged you. And is unlikely to pass it on to the desired recipient if you are insulting and raging.

Make plain how you’ve been inconvenienced, then propose what’ll seem to your correspondent a reasonable and proportionate redress that’s within their power to make. And be sure to phrase your redress as a request instead of a demand.

Letters To Friends

Always remember that your job, writing to a friend, is to entertain. That can mean revelling in the odd pratfall. So, don’t just write about the mundane and pleasant things, try to give them the whole picture and make them feel something.

Letters Of Condolence
  • You are extending respect and friendship. Write quickly, and preferably by hand.
  • You’ll want to calibrate what you write to your relationship both with the recipient and with the deceased. Make it personal.
  • If you knew the deceased well, sharing a couple of warm memories will let the recipient feel there’s a shared bond.
  • If you didn’t know the deceased, you can make respectful reference to what you knew of them.
  • Use tact. Don’t tell the recipient how they should be feeling.
  • If you’re finding it hard to know what to say, you can acknowledge that; but don’t harp on it.
  • Avoid operatic, or competitive, expressions of grief.
  • Acknowledge, but don’t belabour, the grief and pain they feel.
  • Focus on the individual excellence of the deceased rather than the consequences of the loss itself.
  • Be tactful of their religion even if you don’t believe in it. 
Make The Readers Feel Something

Honesty is the most important ingredient. You don’t have to be or have gone through something to write about it but you must have a heartfelt feeling about it so you can expose that emotion through your writing. 

Structure And Revise

You need to have a beginning that builds to a middle and an ending, or at least an idea of where you’re going, as it is key to explore your themes and foreshadow things properly.

Another important thing is to revise your writings. Your first draft is likely to contain multiple errors, poorly phrased sections, and inconsistencies.

Surprise The Reader

To do it, you must know what your audience expects from the type of writing you’re doing and then defy it.

Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don’t pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be memorable. It’s precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting.