Saturday, August 07, 2010

Writing Simply

When I was taking a technical writing course during my grad school days back in the mid-1980s, one of the cardinal sins of writing hammered into my head was stringing several nouns to form a new term. This “abuse” was especially rampant among engineering students whom I suspect have been responsible for what is euphemistically referred to as jargon. I vaguely remember the admonition that three is a crowd.

To prove my point, I walked over to my bookshelf and randomly picked up a magazine that happened to be Civil Engineering, a publication of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a premier engineering society. Flipping the pages, the following terms rolled:

Downhole Data Management.

Borehole Log Software.

Construction Management Services.

Client Relation Management (OK, I did not see this term in there. It just kind of popped up in my head but it is a standard management buzzword these days).

Here I'm excluding the proper noun genre (Oops, guilty as charged) that abounds in the stringing of many nouns with impunity such as (any locality) River Basin Restoration Project.

Today, engaging in triple noun terms has become a norm as people get used to mouthing them effortlessly.

In my mind, these strung terms are a different kettle from verbiage, or verbosity, or circumlocution, a term my English teacher threw at me when I was at the tender age commensurate with being a middle school student. More commonly characterized as wordiness, this at best irritable habit can result without us resorting to using a slew of multiple-noun terms, though it can be exacerbated by their inclusion.

As in all things in life, good writing is simply as simple as is needed to convey the message with clarity. All other embellishments including over-zealous padding are superfluous and often can engender the opposite effect: tune off.

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