Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mantra overload (7) – Oprah Winfrey on Jonathan Franzen

Mantra overload – the excessive use of trendy, vague expressions – is a widespread habit among celebrities. Impresario Oprah Winfrey is an example.

Here is the statement she issued when, in 2001, she disinvited novelist Jonathan Franzen to appear on her show (color added, to highlight mantras):

“Jonathan Franzen will not be on the Oprah Winfrey show because he is seemingly uncomfortable and conflicted about being chosen as a book club selection. It is never my intention to make anyone uncomfortable or cause anyone conflict.”

I count 4 mantras in 38 words.

The Takeaway: If you intend to write clearly, do not mimic celebrities. With rare exceptions, their speech and writing is superficial or evasive – and loaded with mantras. In writing, and especially in formal writing, use mantras sparingly or not at all. Keep asking yourself, “What do I really mean?” Over time, this diligent habit will make your writing more precise and more honest.

See disclaimer.

1 comment:

  1. I also heard a new word on the radio yesterday. A critic was discussing the book Eat, Pray, Love and the "Oprahfication" of literature. I loved it!