Monday, March 1, 2010

Concise writing is usually clear writing (11) – Michael Crichton

Here’s another good example of clear, concise writing. It’s from The Lost World*, a novel by Michael Crichton (pictured).

On page 7, Ian Malcolm, a mathematician, is discussing the human mind:

“Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told – and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare.”

That’s only 52 words long. We may or may not agree with what the fictional Ian Malcolm says about the human mind, but we have little difficulty understanding what he says.

The Takeaway: To improve the clarity of your writing, spend at least ten minutes a day reading aloud from writers who write clearly. You will see, hear and feel the stark contrast between careful, grown-up diction and the careless, infantile diction that besets us every day. 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.

*Michael Crichton. The Lost World. Paperback. Ballantine Books, 1996.

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