Opinion

Clear, concise is the only way to go

Every once in a while, I open a book or a newspaper to read. The headline sounds somewhat interesting, and I’m all excited about the content of the piece. Five minutes, half a page and two Tylenols later, I have completely changed my mind.

We seem to be wasting too much time with a problem that some may be unaware of, but could be easily corrected: the lack of simplicity.

In journalism school, there are a couple rules you should follow, which I think could serve as guidelines for other professionals too: Be clear, concise and direct. If you need to say something or write about a specific topic you want people to know, don’t bog it down with obscure vocabulary words and idioms so that you say in 20 pages what you could have said in two. Just spit it out, using words that an ordinary person could understand.

Unfortunately, most writers have a tendency not to follow these edicts. Many times, students have to face books written by authors who should have been born back in the 16th century, where their Shakespearean speeches would have been pretty hip.

Scholars, for one, have a tendency to do that all the time. It might be a pattern that they’re supposed to follow, but as a current Ph.D. student and hopefully future academic, it makes no sense to me. Knowledge should be something you want to pass along in the easiest way possible to as many people as you can without forcing them to fish for words in their battered old Merriam Webster.

Regular people too have an inclination for making things more confusing that they ought to be also. Every once in a while, just reading the newspaper, you can see articles or letters that use many complicated terms, which the writers fail to explain.

A good writer is able to make his or her point without sacrificing eloquence. However, in most other cases you can read passages over and over and still not be clear as to why someone took his time to write them. What’s the point of writing something if nobody can understand it?

Many times the use of extravagant expressions simply hides an even worse problem: lack of content. I could write 50 pages using the most interesting and impressive terms from the literature of international relations or communication, for example, and still say nothing important or useful at all (Although I guess it would look smart.).

No, I don’t think we need to dumb down our writing. Writing also has the value of teaching people new expressions, some which might be very useful in the future, such as the “intermittent” from a couple lines above. But it’s one thing to make one out of 50 lines a little harder, and another to make 49 out of 50 lines simply incomprehensible.

Daniel Paskin is a doctoral student in the School of International Studies.

April 26, 2002

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Either the Miami Hurricanes get a collective adrenaline rush from heart-palpitating fourth quarters, ...

The question came straight at Ahmmon Richards, like a tight spiral. And this time, he didn’t hesitat ...

1. DOLPHINS: Miami seeks revenge vs. hated, Stinkin' Jets: Dolphins host Jets Sunday with Miami ...

Notes and observations on UM’s 27-19 win against Syracuse: • A UM source said Mark Richt seemed more ...

View photos from the Syracuse at Miami game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami G ...

Univeristy of Miami’s Wynwood Art Gallery holds its annual faculty exhibition featuring thought-prov ...

From a game simulating how whales navigate to a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the U showcased some of ...

A new mobile game called Blues and Reds, now available worldwide, aims to help researchers study int ...

A major Lancet Commission report, a three-year project headed by UM’s Professor Felicia Knaul and co ...

With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel Co ...

The Hurricanes grabbed four interceptions and another ACC victory as they defeated Syracuse, 27-19, ...

The Miami women's tennis team split its eight matches on its second day of competition at the I ...

As a Hurricane Club member, you are invited to participate in the 25th Annual University of Miami Ha ...

Syracuse visits Miami on Saturday, October 21st at Hard Rock Stadium. ...

Thirty years ago, the 1987 Hurricanes achieved perfection. This weekend they are back where it all b ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.