Sunday, September 13, 2009

Concise writing is usually clear writing (8) - Joyce Carol Oates

Here’s another great example of concise writing from Joyce Carol Oates. It’s from her novel I’ll Take You There.

Example of concision

In the novel, a philosophy student ponders:

As the ancient Jewish people, persecuted by their enemies, interpreted history and the random events of nature moralistically, believing that catastrophes even of weather and geology were consequences of man’s evil, so in times of emotional distress we’re inclined to ascribe moral significance to whatever happens. We cease believing in chance and cling to a belief in design; we can’t accept that we don’t deserve what happens to us; we prefer a wrathful, capricious god to no god at all.

That’s a lot of history, psychology and philosophy packed into 80 words. It is classic Oates. We may not always agree with her assertions, but we always know what they are.

The Takeaway: To improve the clarity of your writing, spend at least ten minutes a day reading aloud from writers who write clearly, such as Joyce Carol Oates. You will see, hear and feel the stark contrast between careful, grown-up diction and the careless, infantile diction that surrounds us. If you would like a list of recommended writers and works, please email me at the address shown in my profile. Ask for my “List of Writers to Absorb.” I will respond via email.

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