Monday, October 25, 2010

The Secret of Impressive Writing? Keep It Plain and Simple

"Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the product of simple minds. A simple, unpretentious style has both grace and power. By not calling attention to itself, it allows the reader to focus on the message"—Richard Lederer and Richards Dowis

Daniel M. Oppenheimer, an associate professor of psychology at Princeton University's Department of Psychology, won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature for his paper entitled Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly. Aren't you glad he added the subtitle? I found the title of his paper laugh out loud hilarious. His paper argues that simple writing makes authors appear more intelligent than complex writing. His research found that those who stick with basic vocabulary and plain text are seen as less intelligent.

Writers love learning new vocabulary, but if it sends your reader to the dictionary in the middle of a tense chase scene, it defeats your purpose to engage your reader. Smart writers use words their readers understand.

Erudite Vernacular (a.k.a. gobblygook)
As writers, I thought you’d enjoy common clich├ęs transformed into “erudite vernacular” (a.k.a. gobblygook.) In 1944, Texas Congressman Maury Maverick coined the word gobblygook in reference to prose of politicians that sounded like the senseless gobbling of turkeys. So if you enjoy using big words that others don’t know, see how many of these sayings you can figure out. Don’t peek at the answers below.

And if you’re tired of dumbed-down silly games at wedding and baby showers, give your guests this entertaining list to decipher. The person who figures out the most sayings wins a dictionary.

  1. Pulchritude possesses solely cutaneous profundity.
  2. A futile superfluity of culinary aid destroys nutritious liquids of osseous tissues made.
  3. Never enumerate ere fractured are the shells of bipeds gallinaceous, lest suddenly thy calculations prove utterly fallacious.
  4. Members of an avian species of identical plumage congregate.
  5. Selecting on the part of mendicants must be interdicted.
  6. Surveillance should precede saltation.
  7. That prudent avis that matutinally deserts the cosiness of its abode will ensnare a vermiculate creature.
  8. It is fruitless to become lachrymose over precipitously departed lacteal fluid. 

  9. Freedom from incrustations of grime is contiguous to rectitude.
  10. The stylus is of greater potency than the claymore.
  11. It is fruitless to attempt to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers.
  12. Eschew the implement of correction and vitiate the scion.
  13. The temperature of the aqueous content of an unremittingly ogled saucepan does not reach 100 degrees Celsius.
  14. All articles that coruscate with resplendence are not truly auriferous.
  15. Where one detects visible vapors having their provenance in ignited carbonaceous material, one is certain also to find conflagration.
  16. A plethora of individuals with expertise in culinary techniques vitiate the potable concoction produced by steeping certain osseous tissues and comestible herbs and vegetables.
  17. Eleemosynary deeds have their incipience intramurally.
  18. Male cadavers are incapable of yielding testimony.
  19. Individuals who make their abode in vitreous edifices would be advised to refrain from catapulting petrous projectiles.
  20. Neophyte's serendipity.
  21. Exclusive dedication to necessitous chores without interludes of hedonistic diversion renders Jacques a hebetudinous fellow.
  22. Missiles of ligneous or lithoidal consistency have the potential of fracturing my osteal structure, but appellations will eternally remain innocuous.
  23. A revolving lithic conglomerate accumulates no congeries of a diminutive, verdant bryophitic plant.
  24. Elementary sartorial techniques intitially applied, preclude repetitious actions to the squares of three.
  25. Abstention from any aleatory undertakings precludes a potential escalation of a lucrative nature.
  26. Persons of imbecilic mentality navigate in parameters which cherubic entities approach with trepidation.
  27. A person presenting the ultimate cachinnation possesses thereby the optimal cachinnation.
  28. Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific.
Fain do I fathom your nature specific.
Exaltedly set on the aether capacious
A reasonable facsimile of a gem carbonaceous. Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific.
Fain do I fathom your nature specific.
  29. A research team proceeded towards the apex of a natural geologic protuberance, the purpose of their expedition being the procurement of a sample of fluid hydride of oxygen in a large vessel, the exact size of which was unspecified. One member of the team precipitously descended, sustaining severe damage to the upper cranial portion of his anatomical structure; subsequently the second member of the team performed a self rotational translation oriented in the same direction taken by the first team member.

  1. Beauty is only skin deep.
  2. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  3. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.
  4. Birds of the feather flock together.
  5. Beggars can't be choosers.
  6. Look before you leap.
  7. The early bird gets the worm.
  8. Don't cry over spilt milk.
  9. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  10. The pen is mightier than the sword.
  11. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  12. Spare the rod and spoil the child.
  13. A watched pot never boils.
  14. All that glitters is not gold.
  15. Where there is smoke, there is fire.
  16. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  17. Charity begins at home.
  18. Dead men tell no tales.
  19. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
  20. Beginner's luck.
  21. All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
  22. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
  23. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
  24. A stitch in time saves nine.
  25. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  26. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  27. He who laughs last laughs best.
  28. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in gobblygook.
  29. Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill in doublespeak.


Beth K. Vogt said...

Scoti, where do you find these things? This is why you've earned the title "Researchaholic!" And I love you, girl!

Jeanne T said...

Scoti, This was a fun post. :) Thanks for the reminder to "speak" the language of my readers (or someday readers). I used to think I had a pretty good understanding of words until I tried to figure out the "gobblygook." Thanks for humbling me. :)

Scoti Domeij, Director, Springs Writers said...

No research involved this time. I stumbled onto these cliches quite by accident. I thought they were really fun. They certainly gave my brain a workout trying to figure out what they were. What if you wrote a mystery novel and the mystery was trying to figure out the gobblygook?

Roxanne Sherwood said...

Scoti, love this post. You rock!

Scoti Domeij, Director, Springs Writers said...

Thanks, Roxanne. I'm always amazed that someone took the time to transform those cliches into "erudite vernacular."