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Writing an Essay

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Writing an Essay

Post by Admin on Sat Apr 02 2011, 21:14

Simple Writing is Good Writing

What makes writing good? Writing is not just bunching a group of random words together -- writing is actually an art. This art-form must be accepted by everyone to be considered a masterpiece – just like how one would see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, each one of its strokes having its own substantial meaning that no one can recreate. Writing helps people express their thoughts and ideas in ways that are not only fascinating, but enriching, too. Although, there is no concrete set of laws for writing, a theme recurs throughout many books and pieces intended to assist people in the writing process: On Writing by Stephen King, On Writing Well by William Zinsser and Politics and the English Language by George Orwell. Most people complicate their writing either show off or try to fill up the empty pages of their assignments, but those people probably don't know what they're writing about. It's not the quantity that counts, but the quality. A penniless beggar with a lot of junk does not seem richer than the million with just one diamond. The key fact to good writing is to keep it short and simple.
One way to keep things short is to avoid clutter. Clutter is a jumble of unorganized words. Stephen King states, "..he just left out the boring parts. / You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%." (King 224) He again states, " I'll also want to delete stuff that goes in other directions." (King 215) King tells his readers to rewrite and take out words that would later serve as clutter and confusion. William Zinsser also supports this claim by saying, "Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds ... / Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there." (Zinsser 12) Zinsser compares clutter to weeds, showing how clutter in writing could be a nuisance, just like how one might think of weeds in their garden. Not only is clutter purposeless, but it also elicits confusion within the reader. This technique is reiterated in George Orwell's essay, as he says,"If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out." (Orwell 9) Orwell again tells us to omit needless words. One's intention of clarification would only evoke puzzlement. All three authors are trying to tell us that excessive wording does not make good writing – no matter how detailed or sophisticated it might sound. Clutter makes one's reader confused and uninterested.
Simplifying one's writing is not easy, but using easy words make one's writing simple. In writing, one should not get fancy with vocabulary. King supports this appeal by stating, " One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones." (King 110) Stilted words convey alternate meanings rather than the one meant to be implied. Zinsser also backs up this proposal by saying, "Beware then, of the long word that's no better than the short word." (Zinsser 15) Zinsser again points out that using a longer word such as, "assistance" rather than "help" might bring more clutter, than strength to the writing. Orwell further supports this notion by stating, "Never use a long word where a short one will do." (Orwell 9) Why would one complicate the reader's interpretation by using more complex words? Just like people, a word is still a word no matter what size or shape it comes in – longer doesn't necessarily mean better.
To achieve lucidness one must rewrite. Rewriting is an essential part of writing and should never be avoided, but instead be sought after. Without rewriting there is no 2nd draft that can be subtracted from the 1st . Thus, causing potential clutter that isn't eliminated. How can one pull out the weeds in their garden without carefully examining them? The same is with writing, if one doesn't examine, then re-examine again and again, how can he be so sure he's eliminated all the potential hassles? He can not. King states, " Sit down with your door shut, a pencil in hand, and a legal pad by your side. Then read your manuscript over. / During that reading, the top part of my mind is concentrating on story and toolbox concerns: knocking out pronouns with unclear antecedents, adding clarifying phrases where they seem necessary, and of course, deleting all the adverbs I can bear to part with."
King shows that the rewriting process takes out unnecessary clutter and adds more clarity to the work. Zinsser tells one to rewrite by saying, "Reexamine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Can any thought be expressed with more economy? Is anything pompous or pretentious or faddish? Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it's beautiful? / Simplify, simplify." (Zinsser 16) Zinsser also writes about how crucial rewriting is, "I then said that rewriting is the essence of writing. I pointed out that professional writers rewrite their sentences over and over and then rewrite what they have rewritten." (Zinsser 4) Zinsser uses the charged word, essence in his depiction of rewriting. His use of this word to define rewriting shows how important rewriting actually is. Zinsser's purpose is to tell you, without rewriting, writing doesn't exist. Orwell doesn't directly imply rewriting as a routine, but he does say, " Afterward one can choose – not simply accept – the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally." Orwell is trying to say, after some considerations about word choices, which will probably be done more so often in the rewriting process, your writing can be more well-defined. Without rewriting, one can't give the most perspicuous portrayal of his writing.
Short and simple writing allows for clarity. Clarity, in turn allows for easier understanding of the writing. When the reader understands what the writer is saying, then it is more likely the reader will be interested in further reading what the writer wrote. King lectures this by saying, "The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary." (King 177) King says that the more clear the writing the more clear the image imagined would be. One would or should want his reader to fabricate a more lucent image of his writing rather than a more misty one. Zinsser concurs with this perception of King's by saying, " My roster of the new literature of nonfiction, in short, would include all the writers who come bearing information and who present it with vigor, clarity and humanity." (Zinsser 99) Zinsser shows his approval of writers, whom demonstrate clear writing. Orwell shows his concern for this matter by stating, "The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not."(Orwell 2) Orwell says that vagueness is a result of uncertainty in the writer, which in turn could affect the reader's deference of the writer's credibility. Throw writing in the washing machine before it is worn outside in public.
"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." This quote from Hans Hofmann shows that even quotes, in accordance to life, can be used in writing as well – writing is life. One might argue that writing has no rules and is a just another re-enactment of the human mind. One wouldn't tell another how to think, so why how to write? Yes, that's true, but what's the point of writing something when no one enjoys reading it? Just like an art, one has to practice and learn to make it appealing. Why bombard a simple idea with an abundance of bunkums? Does it show profoundness in the writer? According to writing experts, it does not. Complex and overdone writing is not only distasteful, but can also sway the reader farther and farther away from ever reading this writer's work again. One should just get to the point. Remember, it is not the simple writer who makes it better, but the better writer who makes it simple.

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