Search results: verbosity

Word Nerd: ‘Apposite unfoldments’ and other words too fancy to understand

24 Apr

For some reason, some people think that the harder something is to read, the smarter it must be. But a long word or a complex sentence is not necessarily more effective than a short word or a simple sentence. Indeed, the opposite is often true.  We have discussed before why verbosity is a terrible way to communicate. And now we have a real-life example of how terrible it can get.

Recently, the Supreme Court of India sent back a judgement by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh, because it was impossible to understand. The case was an 18-year-old dispute between a landlord and  tenant. The landlord went to the Supreme Court after the High Court barred him from evicting the tenant who was allegedly not paying rent. The landlord’s lawyer called the judgement “convoluted”, and the tenant’s lawyer joked that she would have to hire an English professor understand it.

Judge for yourself – some samples are below:

  • [The] tenant in the demised premises stands aggrieved by the pronouncement made by the learned Executing Court upon his objections constituted therebefore… wherewithin the apposite unfoldments qua his resistance to the execution of the decree stood discountenanced by the learned Executing Court.
  • However, the learned counsel…cannot derive the fullest succour from the aforesaid acquiescence… given its sinew suffering partial dissipation from an imminent display occurring in the impugned pronouncement hereat wherewithin unravelments are held qua the rendition recorded by the learned Rent Controller…

So many words… so little meaning!

It’s funny… or is it? After giving it time, two Supreme Court justices could come up with no judgement. Both parties in the dispute, as well as their lawyers, wasted time preparing for the hearing. A media report quoted the landlord’s lawyer as saying, “We normally prepare an appeal in two days’ time. However, in this case I took more than a week.” Someone somewhere spent time typing up words that nobody can understand.

If we could add up all the work hours used up each year to produce and understand such incomprehensible writing, what would be the cost to the country? And what about justice delayed? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Word Nerd: Why it’s important to write concisely

3 Apr

Business news reports sometimes refer to “manufacturing units” when they mean “factories”. One college library had a sign above its photocopier that read “Reprographic Unit”. We often use two or more long words when a short one would be enough. This sort of verbosity – sometimes the result of a shaky vocabulary, and at other times bureaucratic tradition – is quite common in India. People in the UK or US are less likely to call a factory a manufacturing unit, and probably wouldn’t understand “reprographic unit”.

It is not a good idea to write verbosely because of your personal taste or cultural influence. Concise writing has clear benefits, regardless of where you or your readers are. Indeed, if your reader is from a different part of the world than you – as when you write a personal essay for a college application to study abroad – it is especially important.

Being concise forces you to choose your words carefully, and thus makes your writing clearer and more focused. As a bonus, over time, you develop the habit of thinking more precisely.

Concise writing makes for more efficient and compelling communication. Readers understand you faster. If your writing requires less effort to read, you are less likely to lose your reader’s interest half-way.

Here are some examples of how you can trim your writing. In the table below, the column on the left quotes actual professionally written reports. On the right are alternative ways to say the same thing.

The column on the right has 32% fewer words. So if you were writing a 2,000-word essay, you would free up 640 words by writing concisely. This would let you add information or examples to strengthen your argument, making your essay more powerful.

Here are some tips for lean writing:

1. Edit yourself. Read what you have written, and remove unnecessary words. Even the best writers in the world benefit from editing.

2. Use the active voice where possible. It’s quicker to say “The professor gave the class a test” than “A test was given to the class by the professor”.

3. Use short words when possible, and avoid using archaic or obscure words. For example, try saying “suspend” instead of “rusticate”, “use” rather than “utilize”, “and” instead of “as well as”.

4. Work on your vocabulary. A good vocabulary will help you be concise without compromising on nuance and precision. Improving your vocabulary should be an ongoing project, regardless of your language skills. Read literary fiction, and look up words when you’re unsure what they mean.

5. Keep lists short. If you need to list examples, be illustrative rather than expansive. An exhaustive list is not always necessary.

So you can train yourself to write in a focused, clear, persuasive, and compelling manner. Don’t wait until you write the first draft of your personal essay – start now!

Check out more Word Nerd posts here!


By Uma Asher


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Word Nerd: 8 words for boring nonsense that just won’t stop

20 Mar

Every party has a crashing bore who will corner you and launch into a labyrinthine story. Every seminar has that one gasbag in the audience who will share a personal opinion disguised as a never-ending question. Every family gathering has that dreaded relative with a chronic case of verbal diarrhea. Verbosity is a common hazard, and it is impossible to completely avoid it. Somewhat ironically, the English language has a hoard of synonyms for it. Here are a few of the less commonly used ones.

1. Argle-bargle

Similar to argy-bargy, argie-bargie, argey-bargey, and argue-bargue. The dictionary defines this as a disputatious argument or a bandying of words. It’s common to see people engaging in argle-bargle in any Indian market.

2. Balderdash

This is the term for a senseless jumble of words, nonsense, or trash, whether written or spoken. Oddly, in the past it also meant a jumbled mixture of liquors, such as of milk and beer, or beer and wine. That usage is now obsolete, but some people still talk like they’ve been drinking balderdash.

3. Blether

Sometimes spelled ‘blather’. The dictionary defines this as voluble talk that makes no sense. In his poem “The Vision”, written in 1786, the Scottish poet Robert Burns remarked that he had wasted his “youthful prime” doing nothing but “stringing blethers up in rhyme for fools to sing”.

4. Drivel

This refers to idiotic utterances or silly nonsense. Interestingly, it once referred also to drooling, or – to use the Oxford English Dictionary’s more clinical description – “spittle flowing from the mouth”.

5. Gibberish

This refers to unintelligible speech that belongs to no known language. It is sometimes applied to ungrammatical language and pretentious verbiage. The verb form refers to someone speaking rapidly and nonsensically. It can also refer to the chattering of an ape.

6. Gobbledygook

This usually refers to jargon – the unofficial language of many professionals, bureaucrats, and pretentious people. In one of the dialects, known as Legalese, sentences often begin with “whereas” and go on for several pages. Gobbledygook is known to be an effective cure for insomnia. Here’s a resource to create unlimited gobbledygook.

7. Hooey

This is American slang for nonsense. The British English equivalent is ‘bunk’. Politicians and TV pundits are often abundant sources of of hooey.

8. Rigmarole

The dictionary defines this as “a succession of incoherent statements; an unconnected or rambling discourse; a long-winded harangue of little meaning or importance”. In other words, it’s part of everyday life.

Someone’s blah-blahs giving you the blues? Cheer yourself up by reading more Word Nerd posts!

By: Uma Asher

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