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What Bad Writing Reveals

This past week I attempted to write a few blog posts. I only managed to produce gibberish that won’t be published. It is frustrating to have nothing to show for the time I had put into writing. But after I transformed my thoughts into characters, I could see those thoughts for what they were: nonsense.

I never learned to write powerfully. The standard for English in my high school was... abysmal. I was taught to make essays with a basic structure, to create somewhat grammatically correct sentences, to employ “persuasive" techniques. I learned how to comply with various bureaucracies by learning standardization's such as "MLA format" for references. In essence, I was shown how to write just well enough to keep me employed at some government job.

But I wasn't taught how to punch with my pen. Nor was I shown how to trim down the fat that hides the message behind my words. Missing from my curriculum: How to Write a Manifesto that Starts a War.

That I cannot write with impact is not a problem in and of itself. I never aspired to be a journalist or novelist or anything of the sort. The issue is that words written are a projection of one's internal dialogue. The same words that go down on paper are circulating in the head just moments before.

Knowing this, I decided to read The Elements of Style by William Shrunk Jr. and E.b. White. That ~70 page booklet contains a long list of common errors that contaminate my essays. I learned that I misallocate my relative pronouns, overuse the word “not”, group words incorrectly, etc. But reading Shrunk and White’s work convinced me that I can fix my superfluous writing. And fixing bloated writing may be a key to thinking efficiently.

One Response to “What Bad Writing Reveals”

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