Friday, August 15, 2014

On clarity

"Anything that can be said can be said clearly."
Ludwig Wittgenstein
I grew up surrounded by folks who wrote with a thesaurus on one side of the desk and a dictionary on the other. They loved big words, especially if they were strung into ponderous phrases that slowed readers down if they reached for their own thesauruses - thesauri? - to deconstruct the wordy ball of twine.

The same kind of thinking peppered their conversation, as well. They'd crack open a sanctimonious little smirk when they knew you couldn't follow along.

It was a literary pissing contest of sorts, a never-ending exercise where folks tried to prove how smart they looked by tossing in every chunky word they could dredge up.

I guess I was just too much of a simpleton to keep pace. Because to me, great writing was spare and clean. It didn't draw attention to itself. Instead, it faded into the background and allowed the core message to easily float into the reader's imagination. It wasn't about proving how brilliant I was. It was - and still is - about telling a story in an easy-to-digest manner.

I came across an old thesaurus in a dusty corner of my office last night, and as much as a writer should have the trappings of writing in plain view, I left it where I found it, confident that I'd somehow get by without its pompous assistance. Likewise, the thesaurus feature in Word will remain the most underused bit of code on my Mac. I can choose my own words, thank you, and I'd rather not force anyone around me to reach for their own thesauruses.

I guess I'm just not smart enough to know any other way.

Your turn: How do you define simplicity?

3 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

For me, simplicity is logic... Awhile back I was told that I'm a linear thinker.. no one ever told me that.. but now I see it.. I have always figured out things in steps.. and I notice my choices seem to follow suit.. Clarity is logic.. Clarity is obvious..

Gilly's Camera said...

simplicity? no need for (most) people to either misunderstand me or ask me to explain what i've said

Dianne - Bunny Trails said...

Well-written, Carmi. Choosing the right words is important, but you have to know what "right" means. Or perhaps, what it means for you. I enjoy your writing and I believe that you have a good balance between variety of vocabulary without overwhelming verbosity which could intimidate and confuse. How's that for not a very simple answer? LOL!!

Clarity is key. If people can't understand you easily, you will lose them.