Thursday, February 24, 2011

Concise writing is usually clear writing (16) – T. C. Boyle

Here’s another good example of clear, concise writing. It’s a passage from “All Shook Up,” a short story by novelist T.C. Boyle (pictured). In this passage, a high-school guidance counselor describes his next-door neighbor:

I’d seen a hundred girls just like her – they passed through the guidance office like flocks of unfledged birds flying in the wrong direction, north in the winter, south in the summer. Slumped over, bony, eyes sunk into their heads, and made up like showgirls or whores, they slouched in the easy chair in my office and told me their stories. They thought they were hip and depraved, thought they were nihilists and libertines, thought they’d invented sex. Two years later they were housewives with preschoolers and station wagons. Two years after that they were divorced.

Now, that’s concise: a crisp summary of a way of life, plus an outsider’s opinion of it, in 96 words.

The Takeaway: To improve the clarity of your writing, spend at least 10 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 joeroy(at)joeroy(dot)com. Ask for my “List of Writers to Absorb.” I will respond via email.

See disclaimer.

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