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Posts Tagged ‘convoluted language’

Simple, Direct Language Is Always the Best Choice!

Posted by languageandgrammar on August 3, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

I know it’s been a while, but we’re still here!

And what better way to come back from a break than by focusing on the most important way to improve communication: Keep it simple and direct.

Seriously, communication that is riddled with extra words, unnecessarily complicated language, and indirect thoughts (which seems to be every work email being sent today!) is muddled, boring, and difficult to comprehend.

On the other hand, every communication that is stripped of unnecessary words, simplified, and direct is a pleasure to read and easy to understand.

For more information, please see a writing tip that I wrote for my day job: Plain Language Is Not Boring Language.

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Plain Language

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 20, 2011

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

I know that this isn’t news since the Plain Language Act passed last year, but since I’ve recently talked about convoluted and over-inflated language, I thought I’d mention it now.

Law language is often full of doublespeak and confusing terminology, much of it with no apparent purpose other than to confuse those who aren’t used to reading such material, and the Plain Language Web site (related to the previously mentioned act) includes some “before” and “after” examples of laws.

The goal of the site is to highlight how much more understandable laws would be if written in plain language, but the before-and-after comparisons page also illustrates how confusing our daily communication may be if we use the same stilted, long-winded approach.

Here’s one example (before and the much simpler after):


After notification of NMFS, this final rule requires all CA/OR DGN vessel operators to have attended one Skipper Education Workshop after all workshops have been convened by NMFS in September 1997. CA/OR DGN vessel operators are required to attend Skipper Edication Workshops at annual intervals thereafter, unless that requirement is waived by NMFS. NMFS will provide sufficient advance notice to vessel operators by mail prior to convening workshops.


After notification from NMFS, vessel operators must attend a skipper education workshop before commencing fishing each fishing season.

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Convoluted and Over-Inflated Language

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 25, 2011

In Literally, the Best Language Book Ever, I have a chapter called “You Thought You Were Clever, But..” in which I talk about words, phrases, and expressions that might have once been clever or cute but have lost all charm through excessive use.

It’s sort of the same philosophy we use related to convoluted and over-inflated language.

Whenever we get the chance, we throw in “facilitate,” “utilize,” and “collaborate” into a conversation, thinking that is shows how smart we are, but we enjoy a good laugh at others when they deliberately make language more complicated than it needs to be.

Sometimes we forget that we, too, can sound ridiculous.

A recent SFGate article, written by Suzanne Rogers, exemplifies the ridiculous nature of over-inflated language. To see it, follow the link (SFGate) and scroll down to the “In other news” section…

Here’s the first paragraph, where she seems to be telling people to pass each other drinks to start the meeting:

“Thank you all for coming. Kudos to Hank for adjusting the fenestration and to George for incentivizing the vortals. Holistic beverage distribution was a collaborative effort between Sheila and Dell. Dirk, Don, and Roger facilitated the cross-pollinated production of the hard deliverables, i.e. real-time benchmarks, that you have before you. Deploy one to your neighbor, if necessary.

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Classic Example of Over-Inflated Language

Posted by languageandgrammar on July 9, 2010

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities.

Over-inflated and convoluted language does not make a person sound more intelligent, but it does make a person seem as if:

  • he’s trying too hard to sound smart
  • how he sounds is more important than what he says
  • he’s trying to deliberately confuse the listener (or reader)
  • he has a really big thesaurus and no real hobbies

None of those would fall into the category of effective communication, which is best represented by a direct, simple expression of thoughts.

Don’t Sound Like This Person!

On a recent Jon Stewart episode, Stewart showed a clip (he did not conduct the interview himself) of Beverly Ginn (an Arizona attorney) saying the following in reference to the controversial Arizona immigration law:

“Reasonable suspicion exists when an officer is aware of specific, articulable facts which, when considered with the objective and reasonable inferences, forms the basis for particularized suspicion.”

By the way, reasonable suspicion apparently includes speeding in a car based on an interview later in the show, but would you have known that from this quote?

Why the Big Words?

I’m no psychic, so there’s no way for me to know why Ginn chose to use that particular language; however, I got the distinct impression–perhaps from the fact that she couldn’t seem to say the line with a straight face–that she was clearly trying to add confusion rather than add clarity.

She didn’t want it to be obvious to her audience what would actually determine when a suspected illegal alien could be asked for identification based on the current law, so she spit out a bunch of inflated words that gave no real information.

Don’t be like that.

Speak Plainly

Stewart summed up her quote by saying, “Mexicans are ****ed.”

Now, that was short and direct…and I knew what he meant.

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Common Sense from Down Under: Convoluted Language

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 25, 2010

I just wanted to share an article I found when I searched for “convoluted language” today:¬† Convoluted language leads to convoluted thinking.

Not only does it hit on one of this blog’s favorites (calling every problem an issue), it also touches on other examples of convoluted, indirect, or passive aggressive language. I know that the article is ancient in Internet time, coming from 2004, but it’s worth a read.


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Voluntary Social Distancing and Self Isolation

Posted by languageandgrammar on October 19, 2009

If you have the flu, one of the best things you can do to prevent its spread is what many experts now recommend–participate in voluntary social distancing or self isolation. Sure, those options will help, or you could do what we’ve been told to do for years–stay at home when you’re sick.

They’re the same thing, of course, but today’s modern flu sufferer deserves a term more representative of the convoluted, over-inflated¬† language of 2009.

Stay at home when you’re sick is too straightforward, direct, and boring. Voluntary social distancing sounds like more fun, which is something that you’ll need given the quality of daytime television. You’re doing something modern and sophisticated.

Besides, tell me that having a self isolation day doesn’t have more appeal than a sick day.

And when you’re stuck at home, with a box of sanitary paper product needed for your productive cough and nasal discharge, you certainly need all the fun that inflated language can give you.


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