A tangled web of evasive verbiage: decorate your message with bullshit

A tangled web of evasive verbiage: decorate your message with bullshit

Oh, the allure of decorative, fancy words! Those sparkling, shiny baubles of the English language that we love to flaunt in our sentences. But too often, they’re just fluff – akin to the gaudy necklace that overpowers a classic little black dress. Overwriting, bedecked with excessive poetic words and swathed in layers of purple prose, is not just a writing faux pas; it’s a billboard announcing amateur hour.

1. The Goal of Words: To Communicate Specific Things.
Your words should be like a transparent window, not a stained glass masterpiece. Through them, the reader should see a story unfold, not get dazzled and lose their way.

2. Beware the Pretty Little Liars.
Many words sound pretty, but what do they really communicate? If a word doesn’t give a clear visual or elicit a specific emotion, consider cutting it. For example:

  • Bad: She walked in a manner that was reminiscent of a gazelle, gently grazing the Serengeti during the twilight hours.

  • Good: She walked gracefully, like a gazelle at dusk.

3. Paint Pictures, Not Puzzles.
Reading is a visual process. When someone reads a story, they should be constructing images in their mind. If they’re focused on untangling the meaning of your ornate sentences, they’re not immersing in the story.

  • Bad: His oculars, glistening like orbs of the deepest cerulean, met hers, and in that singular moment, a cascade of indescribable sentiments poured forth.

  • Good: His deep blue eyes met hers, emotions pouring out.

4. Words as Tools, Not Jewels.
Words are tools designed to build an image, an emotion, or an idea. They’re not jewels to show off. The thesaurus isn’t your ticket to literary genius. Using “defenestration” when “thrown out” will do just makes you sound like you’re trying too hard.

5. Good Descriptive Writing is Clear, Not Cloudy.
Great descriptive writing doesn’t have to be ornate. It has to be clear, evoking a vivid image or emotion.

  • Bad: The atmospheric conditions outside manifested themselves as minute crystalline droplets cascading from the heavens.

  • Good: Raindrops fell from the sky.

10 more writing examples

1. Describing Simplicity:

  • Bad: The space had a minimalistic vibe, characterized by an absence of non-essential ornaments or lavish embellishments.
  • Good: The room was simply decorated.

2. Conveying Emotions:

  • Bad: She felt as if a thousand tumultuous storms raged within her very soul, threatening to engulf her essence.
  • Good: She was overwhelmed with emotion.

3. Describing Appearance:

  • Bad: His hair, which cascaded downwards, was reminiscent of the obsidian darkness of the universe.
  • Good: He had long, jet-black hair.

4. Portraying Action:

  • Bad: With immense trepidation, he extended his upper limb and used his digits to interact with the object.
  • Good: He reached out nervously and touched it.

5. Expressing Surprise:

  • Bad: A sensation not unlike being doused in frigid liquid coursed through her, rendering her momentarily incapacitated.
  • Good: She was taken aback.

6. Setting a Scene:

  • Bad: The luminous celestial body hung in the vast expanse, casting a silvery glow upon the terrestrial realm below.
  • Good: The moon shone brightly over the land.

7. Illustrating Movement:

  • Bad: He ambulated in a manner evocative of one who has consumed excessive fermented beverages.
  • Good: He staggered like he was drunk.

8. Showing Affection:

  • Bad: Their labials met in a passionate, fervent osculation that transcended the bounds of time and space.
  • Good: Their lips met in a passionate kiss.

9. Conveying Sound:

  • Bad: The avian creature produced a melodic cacophony, a symphony of nature’s true essence.
  • Good: The bird sang sweetly.

10. Describing Weather:

  • Bad: The atmospheric anomalies rendered the sky a hue of fiery vermilion and blushing rose.
  • Good: The sky turned shades of red and pink.

By honing the craft of concise and clear writing, you not only respect your readers’ time and intelligence but also enhance the impact of your narrative. Remember, sometimes less truly is more.

How to improve your writing

Obviously, this rule isn’t 100% – you may even prefer some of the flowery, purple prose examples above. Here’s the main thing: pretty words are ornaments you use to decorate important passages. Save them for the very heavy stuff on your most cutting chapters or plot events.

If every sentence is poetry, people won’t be able to find the active story or scene behind all the fluff, and they’ll get tired over needing to figure out what’s actually happening or what’s really there in the scene, hidden behind a wall of creative metaphors.

Too many metaphors are a clear sign of amateur writing.

In the grand tapestry of writing, let clarity be your golden thread. Let every word serve a purpose. Aim to transport your reader into the story, rather than trapping them in a maze of words. After all, while a bit of verbal razzle-dazzle might seem impressive at first, it’s the clear, compelling story that truly captivates the reader.

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