Views to Ponder: Writers’ pitfalls

by Admin-Phmp

By Henrylito D. Tacio


“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.  ‘tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain


We use words to convey a message every now and then.  There are always two actors: the person who delivers the message and the receiver of the message.  How you deliver the message matters but how the receiver understands what you mean is the main thing. The Bible states: “Unless you speak words easy to understand, how shall it be known what is spoken?” (I Corinthians 14:9).

Most of those who use words are called writers – although they also come in the form of a journalist, reporter, scribe, chronicler, blogger, and fictionist.  These are the people who use words as their main tools in writing and speaking.

Again, the Bible states: “In the beginning was the Word…”  It may sound obvious but before you write a word, think of what you want to say.  Most people find writing a herculean task because they are confused with what they want to convey in the first place.

Putting all your thoughts into words comes next.  When you start scribbling those words, write them as you were speaking out loud.  As much as possible, use everyday words that sound natural and familiar.  Avoids words and phrases that sound pompous or stiff.  Avoid long, complicated sentences.

When I was still in college, our professor told us: “Write the way you talk.”  That statement becomes my motto when it comes to writing.  Doing so will not only help you write plain English but also give your writing vigor and personality.

“Have something to say and say it as clearly as you can,” advices Matthew Arnold, an English poet and cultural critics who worked as an inspector of schools.  On how to do this, Russian playwright Anton Chekhov illustrates: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Oftentimes, writers come across some blunders.  In some instances, they commit faux pas.  “To err is human,” Alexander Pope urged us to believe.  But still, writers have their pitfalls, according to Australia Post (AP).

The mixed metaphor is one of these pitfalls.  “We use metaphors all the time, often without realizing it.  They cannot only be mixed, but unsustained, overdone, and overused,” AP stated.  “(But) they can give life and sense to your writing.”

Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte oftentimes uses metaphors.  As he himself admitted in one of his speeches: “I use similes, metaphors, hyperboles, and other figures of speech every now and then, to prove or stress a point.”

 Next is the cliché. “A popular phrase which tends to used indiscriminately, and so becomes worn out and meaningless,” AP says.  “Sometimes, a cliché might suit your needs perfectly, but many clichés are just boring.” Examples: play second fiddle, leave no stone unturned.

Jargon – these are specialist words and technical terms from science, art, trade or profession.  When used out of context, they are a common source of misunderstanding. Feedback, interface, parameters, compounding; “whatever the jargon, it is usually ugly sounding and hard to understand,” AP says.

If you don’t know what verbiage is, these are tempting words and phrases that sound important but are just padding.  Examples include unduly, respectively, considerable, in connection with, in the first instance.  “Cut this kind of language from your writing,” AP advices.

Tete a tete, vice versa, apropos, hoi polloi, bete noire, pro rata, al fresco – all these are foreign words which have become part of English language.  “These are often misused, misunderstood, and misspelt,” AP notes.  “Can you replace these with plain English?”

What about punctuation?  “Rely on common sense, and put in stops to make the reader’s task easier,” AP points out.  “Readers will always struggle on to the full stop before they pause to absorb the material.”

Finally, poor grammar.  “Using the correct grammar will become second nature if you read widely; you know something is right because it sounds right, not just because you know the rule,” AP says.

Would-be writers must read.  It is only through reading that you compound your vocabulary by encountering new words. American bestselling author Stephen King has this to say: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 

Nobel laureate and American writer William Faulkner also advises: “Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

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