Monday, July 25, 2011

Concise writing is usually clear writing (19) – Philip Roth

Here’s another good example of clear, concise writing. It’s from The Human Stain, by the American novelist Philip Roth (pictured). Reading this passage, you can easily imagine – almost feel and taste – the carefree and sensual life of a dairy cow:

“…the creamy-colored cows with the free-swinging, girderlike hips and the barrel-wide paunches and the disproportionately cartoonish milk-swollen udders, the unagitated, slow-moving, strife-free cows, each a fifteen-hundred-pound industry of its own gratification, big-eyed beasts for whom chomping at one extremity from a fodder-filled trough while being sucked dry at the other by not one or two or three but by four pulsating, untiring mechanical mouths – for whom sensual stimulus simultaneously at both ends was their voluptuous due. Each of them deep into a bestial existence blissfully lacking in spiritual depth: to squirt and to chew, to crap and to piss, to graze and to sleep – that was their whole raison d’être. [They enjoyed the] best of carnal everything, including savoring at their leisure mushy, dripping mouthfuls of their own stringy cud. Few courtesans have lived as well, let alone workaday women.”

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.

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