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  1. Brandee wrote on

    I think people should get over it. I understand the need to write and speak professionally to your target audience, however, I think some people take the idea of “formal writing” too far. Especially when it relates to blogging or marketing materials.

    In a world full of words and phrases that have been “made-up” to sound catchy (think cosmetic companies and all their “addiditves”), and things that have been used so often they actually become WORDS in the dictionary (D’oh!), we need to “relax” our thinking about the formality of words.

    Now, if you’re going to write your PhD thesis, and submit it to English Scholars, then no, don’t be sloppy, cute or lax with your use of terms and grammar. If you’re asking me to write a witty “catch your attention” piece, a marketing campaign or a blog which will be distributed to people with reading levels between 3rd grade and graduate student, then I think simplicity is key.

    I agree, it does not need to be complex and borderline incomprehensible for it to be “formal” or “professional” or “accurate”

  2. Angie Haggstrom wrote on

    You are my conjunction connoisseur and grammar guide. In fact, the link from CCC may just help me win a pesky argument with a certain editor I know. I’m looking forward to it!

    I spent years using them to make sentences flow together only to find out that most customers/editors want them eliminated in any ‘formal’ copy. It’s downright frustrating and fascinating at the same time.

    Honestly, most of us can’t stand reading dry, choppy works. Why would you want your copy to read the same?

    By the time some of them is finished removing linking devices, adjectives, adverbs, and modifiers, do you know what you have left? I saw Jane Run.

    IOU one for this post lol I’m going to enjoy it.

    Angie

    PS Thank you for the link love!

  3. Kimota wrote on

    Excellent post and definitely true. Far too often, inexperienced writers and clients mistake professional writing as dense, verbose and complex writing. Of course, the sign of the professional writer is to produce copy that is easy to understand and comfortable to read.

    I have come across this misunderstanding many times – not always because of transitional devices or the use of a conjunction to start a sentence, but often through a belief that bigger words are more formal or complex grammar demonstrates intelligence.

  4. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Good point @Kimota! It’s crazy, but there does seem to be an obsession amongst some reviewers with complex-sounding copy. It ain’t for me! (Could ya tell?!)

  5. Jack wrote on

    The question is, is writing some kind of ritual or is it an effort to gets some communicating done. If it’s a ritual, then like other ceremonies, it doesn’t have to make sense. If it’s a way of communicating, then one ought to pull out all of the stops and make it easy to read. I remember reading the conclusion of a study some time back. It said that even well educated readers prefer simple. short sentences. Why drive up a steep hill in fourth gear unless getting to the top is less important than straining the tranny.

  6. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Hey Jack. Welcome! And nice analogies. Couldn’t agree more! I definitely think some clients see copy as a ceremony.

  7. Trey - Swollen Thumb Entertainment wrote on

    Those transitional devices are used to make the reading more effortless and fun to read. Legal forms are designed NOT to be read, so the absense of the transitions are on purpose. I think that the best writing is the writing that is most accessible to a large group of people, while still getting the most “punch” from the language that is being used.

  8. Linda Suttie wrote on

    I can’t tell you the amount of times a client comes back to me and says “It’s not correct to start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’ – in fact I had a client who was horrified that I would call myself a “writer” and then start my sentences that way. I just pointed her to TIME magazine one of the world’s most respected publications and told her to have a read. Not to mention any one of the thousands of ads in mags these days. There’s no doubt that the trend is for natural conversational writing. It makes sense and it’s more fun to write! Of course there are jobs where a more serious tone is required – more and more reason to have a client sign off on a creative brief which specifies tone.

  9. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Yeah, I think some clients just can’t put aside their school education and think from the reader’s perspective…

  10. jack wrote on

    Very few people visit their doctors and argue about the diagnosis and treatment. A corporate lawyer makes his/her legal assessment and very few people disagree about the law. That’s not the case with writers — for two reasons: one, people believe that since they are consumers of writing, they must also be expert producers of writing; two, writers do not have position power so their expertise can be ignored.

    The solution is risky. Insist on writing well and offer to resign the assignment if the client resists. That, in effect, is what doctors and lawyers do. Of course, they have the pressure of malpractice lawsuits to give them steel in their spines. But they act in concert. With few exceptions, there is general agreement about the proper practice of law and medicine. So, if a client were to go to another practitioner, he or she would usually get the same advice.

    Hungry writers, on the other hand, will cooperate with a delusional client to get and keep the work. Therein lies the problem. If writers were to act in concert, the client will gain some respect for them. Of course, that’s delusional on my part. Writers are constantly trashing other writers work.

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