Sunday, January 02, 2011

A New Year's resolution

One of my goals this year will be to improve my writing skills, as I am quite disgusted with my present habits of prose.  I started the new year with George Orwell's Politics and the English Language.  The salient point of his essay is that language and thought are inextricable, and thus improving language can improve the quality of thinking (and ultimately political discourse).
A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.  It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language.  It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.  The point is that the process is reversible.  Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.  If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly...
Specific things to work on:
  1. Slow down
  2. Use the active voice
  3. Improve diction, structure, and cadence
    • Work through a book on revising prose
    • Consult a daily word calendar
  4. Rewrite clumsy sentences
  5. Proofread
  6. Resist publishing a post immediately, and read over it again later
  7. Extinguish childishness: 
    • Excessive cowardice: like, almost, perhaps, often  and might
    • Overuse of the first person and relativistic mushiness:  It's only my opinion, I believe sincerely that, it appears that, it seems to me that, that doesn't strike me as, my problem with this argument is, etc.
    • Fanboyish exclamation points!!
    • Emoticons: they simply absolve the writer of being subtle or using tone
  8. Lofty attempts at being clever rarely succeed 


Post a Comment