Thursday, July 15, 2010

Puerile writing vs. grown-up writing (2)

In the last post (July 12), we discussed puerile writing vs. grown-up writing. In particular, we explained that puerile writing is narcissistic and histrionic whereas grown-up writing is empathic and sober.

Puerile writing is also bloated, whereas grown-up writing is streamlined.

An example of bloated, puerile writing

Here’s an example of bloated, puerile writing. It is the beginning of a rambling, narcissistic essay by Richard Daughty (Mogambo Guru), general partner and COO for Smith Consultant Group, serving the financial and medical communities. (Boldface added to show unnecessary words.)

Last week’s winner of the Mogambo Most Stupid Quote Of The Week (MMSQOTW) goes to that arch-idiot, Barack Obama – after the contest judge (me) was found (my wife tracked me down) in a local tavern (low-rent girlie bar), and was hurriedly sobered up (to no avail) with some hot coffee (too weak) and a lot of screaming from my wife (loud), mostly centered about what a lowlife bastard I am (with examples).

After being driven home with her “loud snotty harangue” as musical accompaniment, I ran across this startling AP news item entry, which was so shocking that it sobered me up pretty quick!

The most recent staggering stupidity (our contest winner!) is from the White House, where “President Barack Obama said Thursday he wants to tax banks to recoup the public bailout of foundering firms at the height of the financial crisis.”! Hahaha!

An example of streamlined, grown-up writing

In contrast, here’s a grown-up essay, by Sheila Bair, chairman of the (U.S.) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). She is writing about Elizabeth Warren, who was named one of the 2010 TIME 100.

You’d think a soft-spoken, straight-shooting woman who grew up in a small town on the Great Plains would not want anything to do with a thankless high-profile government position overseeing the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the U.S. financial industry. If you were like me and grew up in Independence, Kans., 200 miles from Elizabeth’s Norman, Okla., you’d understand why she did.

It helps to know that someone with Elizabeth’s Midwestern roots is watching the store. When it comes to holding people to account, Elizabeth, 60, takes the prize. She’s unusually polite. But her words can be sharp as a tiger’s tooth, as many a witness has learned coming before her congressional committee.

Elizabeth is at her best when she deploys that razor-sharp eloquence in defense of the American consumer. Some of her ideas are controversial, but we always listen because her powerful intellect and plainspoken articulation prove to be an irresistible combination. Of all the victims of the damage done in the past two years by the financial meltdown and the ensuing economic downturn, consumers have suffered the most. But that may soon come to an end if Elizabeth has her way and Congress establishes a new and independent consumer watchdog for financial products. I say high time.

The Takeaway: If you confuse, distract or irritate your readers, you will probably be unable to deliver your message clearly. Puerile writing is confusing, distracting and irritating. The cure for puerile writing is to imitate grown-up writing until it becomes a habit. Remember, grown-up writing is:

Empathic: It’s written to please the reader, not the author.
Sober: It doesn’t inject false excitement into routine transactions.
Streamlined: It includes the essentials and excludes the extras.
Courteous: It shows consideration for the reader.

See disclaimer.

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