Have you ever picked up a publication and marveled at the skills of its writers? My favorite magazine for good writing is The Atlantic. I’ve been a subscriber for over 40 years. Here’s a snippet that I think illustrates what I mean:

Imagine a long, terrible dental procedure. You are rigid in the chair, hands clenched, soaked with sweat—and then the dentist leans over and says, “We’re done now. You can go home. But if you want, I’d be happy to top you off with a few minutes of mild pain.”

There is a good argument for saying “Yes. Please do.”

The writer, Paul Bloom, who happens to be a psychology professor at Yale University as well as a world-class writer, doesn’t dig into his vast vocabulary and pull out words that will impress the reader. He paints a picture with simple words. The picture is vivid and puts “you” in its center. The transition to the rest of the piece is so compelling, you may already have hit the link to see what he’s going to say next.

That is good writing.

Never let yourself choose words that show off your vocabulary. This is especially hard for physicians, attorneys other professionals who are trying to emerge from their specialty into the world of regular people.

“Simplify, simplify, simplify,” Henry David Thoreau tells us. Great advice that has been quoted endlessly.

Why didn’t he follow his own advice instead of repeating the word? Because he wanted you to get it, that’s why. Used sparingly, repeating a word can add emphasis.

Simplify your writing. Let your words be clear and easy to understand. Toss heavy words like “however” and “moreover” into the word shredder. Avoid long, convoluted words as well as shorter, bulky ones. Streamline your writing. Cut it back.

If you’d like me to show you what I mean, send me (hodi@mindspring.com) a snippet of no more than 300 words of your writing that you think may be too bulky, and I’ll edit it for you. No cost or obligation, just to show you what an editor can do to simply your vocabulary, an important step to good writing.

Online consulting free and with no obligation, offered by Griffith Publishing.

Don’t write yourself into a corner with cumbersome words.

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