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Sunday, May 20, 2012

SPEAKING MY HEART : Some Words for the Wise | Weather Underground

I'm an advocate for using plain language -- clear, concise writing -- to help ensure that readers understand, without too much distraction or confusion, what the writer is trying to say. After all, if a reader doesn't "get it" or gives up trying to get it because the writing is too difficult or dense, the writer has not accomplished much, at least for that reader.

Plain language writing has various principles, including the use of common, familiar words that readers will quickly comprehend. Use of plain language isn't meant to insult a reader's intelligence by "talking down" the reader. Instead, it's meant to use vocabulary that the targeted readers are likely to understand in their work, hobby, special interest and so on.

Plain language advocates recognize that people do understand many words outside their particular interests even though they may not use those words often in their writing and speech. Still, it's important in achieving clear, concise writing to ensure that readers will understand most words in a particular document with as little difficulty as possible.

But, about the article at this link ...

I write all the above as a prelude to this article, which acknowledges the beauty of English -- and the wonderfully precise words that many of us don't use everyday. Many of these words have actually dropped by the wayside, become nearly archaic, because of their lack of use.

Recognizing that certain words have become outdated for good reason, I think it's wise to consider using words that have precise meanings that no other word can express. Of course, the writer has a responsibility to his or her reader to define the word in some way -- to make clear its meaning. That can be done in various ways from actually giving a definition to using the word in such a context that its meaning -- its precise meaning -- is clear.

This article concludes (emphasis added):
It’s become a commonplace to describe language as a tool. Like hammers, chainsaws and levers, word-tools certainly do help us accomplish the routine, utilitarian tasks of life. But if language helps us hammer home a point or cut through a tangled argument, it also can serve as a palette of nuance, a chisel for carving meaning from blocked understanding, a rosined bow to draw across a taut and tuned reality. We learn language, use language and love language not only because we want to “do”, but even more because we want to “be”, and it is language that calls us into being.
In a world marked by linguistic reductionism - the acronyms of Twitter and text, the determined dumbing-down of school requirements, the twisting of language by politicians and the willingness of publishers to market to the lowest common denominator – it’s worth remembering that our forebears were men and women who opened frontiers and built a country with books as well as with wagons and plows. Perhaps the time has come to reclaim that heritage: to read, write and speak freely, to revel in the richness of language and rebel against those who would diminish and distort its power in our lives.
Perhaps the time has come to free some words, in the service of our world.
If you're interested in learning more about plain language, check out these sites:
Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide
Garbl's Plain Language Resources.

And if you're interested in more articles about words, check out Garbl's Word Links.

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