Monday, November 12, 2007

Stultifying English

My mother-in-law asked me recently about how a job offer lined up with what I want to do. I told her, "I want to try cases, and this will give me that opportunity." Typically, I would have said "I want to litigate," but I coincidentally used the $5 word instead of the $250 word. Most of the time, I use the $250 word, stultifying [Q.E.D.] my writing. Then, today, I got this:


cash advance


Ouch.


The goal of all communication is to convey a message. Using the $250 word rarely conveys exactly the message you are trying to convey. If I had told her I wanted to litigate, it would have conveyed the message that I'm a law student reminding her that I'm a law student--and she's not--and that we speak different languages. Instead, plain English conveys the message I really wanted to convey: yes, this job lines up with what I want to do. Most of the time, $250 English probably conveys the message, but with a lot of elitist overtones. The elitism drowns out your intended message, and your attempt at communication fails. Maybe that's what Plain English is about: ensuring that your message gets heard.


This is what I love about blogging: I can practice my writing skills, and you, my faithful readers, can tell your children that you read our generation's Scott Turow when he was just a law student writing a blog.

4 comments:

Yee said...

Today I told the girls that I wasn't a "requisite" part to them going out for a drink. I was using words with more than 2 syllables to describe drinking - something is wrong here.

Meanwhile, my blog got "high school" level.

Mark Osler said...

So... it's good that my blog is at a Junior High level?

Jeremy Masten said...

Blogging at a junior high level should be encouraged, as long as you don't start acting at a junior high level. Those may have been the lousiest two years of my life.

poopsandwich said...

But speaking in an elitist manner is how we show we are superior to others...?