Keep it short, simple and straightforward

Last Monday I attended a "Secrets of Superlative Writing" workshop with Paula LaRocque at a Fort Worth conference.

Before becoming a consultant and novelist, LaRocque was a well-known writing coach for the Dallas Morning News.

I talked to her afterward, and she confirmed that my obsession with teaching students (and others) to write, "The XXX department will present a workshop" instead of "The XXX department will be presenting a workshop" is exactly the kind of conciseness she preaches.

A challenging technique she offered to turn pretentious into good writing is using only one-syllable words. She said she had never seen an example of bad writing that used this technique.

I only have the space to scratch the surface, but here are a few of her tips:

  • Get to the point and stay there.
  • Don't write words that you don't use in speech.
  • Keep sentences short and to one idea.
  • The keys to good writing are accuracy, brevity and clarity.
  • Avoid jargon, gobbledygook, pretensions and euphemisms.
  • Use short, precise words, but not too strong.
  • Avoid vague qualifiers like "very" and "totally."
  • Use "nod" instead of "nod his head," "history" instead of "past history," etc.
  • Don't use "pre" (pre-plan, pre-enroll).

She noted that a hallmark of intellect is the ability to simplify. Paraphrasing Einstein, she said, "All writing should be as simple as possible, but not simpler."

I have ordered her "The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well."

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