01 Jul Watch Your Language
In a recent interview, Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm” and “Tribe”, describes the kind of writer he admires:
“I look for someone who is…..hard-working in their prose. By that I mean they take the time to choose words that surprise me; they use metaphors that I’ve never heard before; and they avoid clichés. I don’t want to read anything – not even a clause – that I’ve seen before. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time.”
How wonderful, I thought, to see that someone else wishes for original and possibly even creative language use.
I expect he wouldn’t want to see “a host of problems,” or “her actions spoke volumes about her intentions,” or “he padded across the room,” or “he had a shock of hair across his forehead.”
Even if the writer’s choice is between using these tired phrases and plain language, I would rather see plain language. It suggests that the writer is making her own choices about which words to use, even if in any given phrase she hasn’t come up with something lovely. I feel optimistic that in a few paragraphs she’ll hit on some interesting phraseology. And if not – at least I’m reading that writer and not the many, many writers who used those words before her.
Does this concept apply to the often tedious writing of the workplace? Does it apply to speaking? Try this: listen to yourself and others and see if you hear tired language that could be livened up. Read the documents that pile up on your desk or computer and see if there is anything to be done about the weary words you will probably encounter.
And: would you take a course in language use? Maybe there’s an audience for ‘Watch Your Language’. What do you think? I wonder what Sebastian would think of that.