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On Writing With Clarity

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Brian Wolfe

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In this essay I would like to talk about writing in general as well as blogs themselves.  It seems odd to me how we say that we are going to “talk” about something when it is actually in print.  I suppose I should have written, “I would like to write about...”, it would have been more accurate. The other issue that comes to mind is audio books. You don’t read an audio book, you listen to them; this being the case should they even be called books, since you read a book and listen to a recording. I can’t help but wonder how anyone can be so busy that they need to be read to, like a child at bed time; or is it a matter of limited reading skills or out and out laziness.  The books I like to read are historical and scientific [particularly earth science] and I confess to watching lectures on You Tube far more often than I like admitting.  If you are looking for a couple of good presenters on You Tube, pertaining to history, I suggest you try, Lindybeige or Matt Easton scholagladiatoria [just type matt easton into your browser and go to the choice that includes scholagladiatoria, this saves typing in a long Latinized name].  He talks mostly about swords and HEMA [Historical European Martial Arts] where Lindybeige talks on history as well as some quite philosophical topics.

 

As to blogs, at least the one I attempt to pound out here, there are inherent problems.  For example it is difficult to stay away from politics and religion when they play such an intrinsic part of the story of military history.  It is also difficult not to unintentionally draw comparisons between the past and present state of what is going on in the world today. It’s not as if this is anything new, for example, a writer in the 1850s [an era in which my children are convinced I was born] could as easily have made a connection between the past and their particular time period.  The difference is that he or she is not taken to task today about what they wrote “yesterday”; a current writer on the other hand is quite open to verbal attack for such comparisons, intentional or otherwise. No one likes to constantly apologize for the misinterpretation of his work by others.  When it comes to religion I could say that I don’t care what your religious beliefs or lack thereof may be. However, that’s not completely accurate as it is not a matter that I don’t care it is a matter that I do not believe it is any of my business. 

 

Then there is the matter of what words to use and how to use them.  Most people do not write the same way they speak.  The reason is simple, in my mind, as when we converse we don’t have the time to pick what we might think to be a more appropriate word. I will be honest here and say that I do at times stop in the middle of spoken sentence and say, “what is that word...let me think...oh yes”, then include it and carry on with the thought.  I know it drives people crazy; unlike religion, this is a case where I really don’t care. I also occasionally do use Latin terms when I talk with others, not a lot, but I use them.  My family has gotten used to it and friends pretty much ignore their use, and at times me no doubt. I do struggle with what words to use; should I go for the word I have in mind or try to find a monosyllabic word to assure all of the readers will understand and thereby avoid being seen as pretentious. I think that it’s better to be seen as pretentious rather than to feel like I am being condescending toward the reader, I’d rather be seen as being more pompous rather than risk insulting fellow members.   Yes, I see the irony in using “monosyllabic” over “single syllable” when I claimed that I wanted my writing to be clear to the reader. My thought on this point is and has always been that if you don’t understand a particular word then look it up; that’s what I did and still do; it’s basic vocabulary building. My last point on viewing people as being pretentious is to pose the question, ‘Did you think the writer opened the dictionary, picked out some very long words then wrote the article around those words.  Certainly he or she had foreknowledge of those words in order to have used them in the first place.

 

The fact that some of the potential readers may not have English as their first language is not lost on me.  I come from a bilingual country [Canada] and stand as a proponent of bilingualism. Having said that my grasp of the French language is less than minimal; this is the very definition of hypocrisy.  I can imagine how I would feel attempting to read an article in another language other than English and I regret that I am unable to accommodate them...c’est la vie. I treat learning a second language much like living a healthy life style and getting plenty of exercise. I fully support those so inclined and enthusiastically cheer them on while they run by as I sit in my lawn chair, Pepsi in one hand and a bag of potato chips close by giving the participants a hardy thumbs up. Just remember that in 100 years we all be in the same condition, at least for me it will be no surprise.

 

In conclusion, I will attempt to be more mindful of the need for clarity in my writing while not drifting too far away from what I term as a writing style. After all it has taken me decades to get to be this annoying and pretentious.

 

Regards

Brian

 

 

 

 

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You forgot verbose.  😉

You could have gotten right to the point and saved me a lot of time if you had written this sentence at the beginning of this novella - " In conclusion, I will attempt to be more mindful of the need for clarity in my writing while not drifting too far away from what I term as a writing style. After all it has taken me decades to get to be this annoying and pretentious." 😋

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Hi Irish Gunner,

Thanks for your comments and no I didn't forget "verbose" I just  ignore that concept. I am, after all, paid by the word.😉

Regards

Brian

 

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Reading the comment about the placement of the conclusion, or summary, of my blog above reminded me of a story from my past that I would like to share with you.  As Irish Gunner has alluded, some think my writing is pedantic so this one is on them; I accept no blame.

 

I am retired from a 30 year career working in government here in Ontario with 20 years with municipally government and a decade with the oldest and largest conservation authority in the province.  The last position, managing the lands and holdings of the conservation authority can only be described as a dream job.  While at one municipality the department heads were required to attend council meetings every Monday evening, this is common throughout Ontario and most likely the rest of the country; though some hold council during the day. 

 

My reports were almost entirely composed of statistics such as permits issued, projects completed, and number of charges, prosecutions and revenues.  Pretty mundane and consisting of one page; two if it was the yearend report. The Planning Department on the other hand presented reports that weighed in at around twenty pages.  The council packages were hand delivered on Friday so that they could be reviewed by the council members on the weekend in order to be ready for the Monday evening meeting. For the most part they would show up at the meeting and only then rip open their council packages.  It should be noted that in those days council meetings could run as late as 2 PM.  The Planning Department Director and I were, and are, good friends [he is my neighbour as well] and we would each write down the name of one of the older council members that we thought would fall asleep first as the meeting wore on. The bet was for morning coffee the following day.  He knew that the council never read his reports as long as he wrote the longest most drawn out reports imaginable.  Since his department’s job was to support or object to a development proposal he would “hide” certain facts within the body of the report then write a summary at the end that may or may not contain all of the pertinent facts; depending on how he wanted the decision to go. In a sick way it was brilliant.

 

One day all of the department heads received an inter office memo stating that the required format of the council reports were to change.  I couldn’t help but smile at the thoughts that his scheme was over. Imagine if you will the look that must have been on my face, at the next council meeting, when the only proposed change to the summary was now it was now to appear at the beginning of the report! I was dump struck, looked over at the planner who looked at me, smiled and winked.  The reason for the change was that there had been a complaint from a member of the public that when they were presenting their petition it was difficult to be heard due to the rustling of pages by the council members who had left their microphones on.  They were rifling through the planner’s long report to get to the summary and, of course, ignoring the speaker. With the new change in format there was even less chance of finding something hidden in the body of the report as now the summary was right there on top. Ah, local government; sharp as bread pudding; when they’re awake.

 

Regards

Brian  

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My wife is looking to make a bread pudding from a leftover Italian Christmas Panetone. 

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I would suggest a Google search.  I did a search for chicken and dumplings today as I wanted to make it this coming week and my wife said, "Really? You had to look it up?" Yep, if I can't burn it on the BBQ then I'm lost.

Regards

Brian

 

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Brian,

I have recently returned to the Club, after quite a while - the absence wasn’t for any particularly good reason - just life. I have really enjoyed catching up with your ruminations. Thanks for your efforts. I never expected to see bread pudding mentioned on a military interest site! It reminds me that , when I was a kid, my mum used to make it, or apple sponge with custard, for Saturday lunch. This was fine when I played lacrosse on a Saturday morning as a junior, but was probably the main reason I never hit the high spots as a senior, playing on a Saturday afternoon. I’m not Canadian, by the way, lacrosse was a big thing around the  Manchester area, where I grew up 50+ years ago. Is this the first time lacrosse has been mentioned on GMIC?

Wasn’t it Miss Piggy who said “Pretentious, moi?”.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

Patrick

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Thank you for your kind comments Patrick and welcome back to the forum.

Regards

Brian

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On 02/02/2019 at 17:20, IrishGunner said:

My wife is looking to make a bread pudding from a leftover Italian Christmas Panetone. 

A teacher friend of my wife's brought a Panetone bread pudding with her (I think he son made it.  It was delicious!)

 

Incidentally, one of my lines is "My ancestors came over on the Pedantic."

Michael

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As a former writer of business biographies and a reader of nonfiction almost exclusively, I have a startling remark to make. I think that very possibly, writing fiction, good fiction, would be tougher to do than nonfiction. Here is why, given my limited exposure to good novels. Novels take on themselves more depth of character development, creativity and the mastering of the introduction and intermixture of rich dialogue.  They have interwoven drama and pretext and subtext and subtle interactions of characters. Thoughts? I am not saying what is better than another, rather, which one might be tougher from a writer's craft.  

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Hello eurorders,

Thank you for your comment. I would have to agree with you completely. I like to reproduce different museum items for my own amusement and a friend of mine often assists me. We were talking about what we do and both agree that we, for the most part, lack the talent to develop, weapons for example, that are unique or fantasy items. We are pretty handy at reproducing what we see but the idea of developing items completely of our own design is beyond our skill base. I think the same thing holds true with fiction writing as compared with non-fiction. Personally, I simply lack that degree of imagination. 

I do hope others will weigh in on this point.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog and respond.

Regards

Brian

 

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2Mind you as I think Sterne's Tristam Shandy is the finest work of the English language I would suggest it breaks all rules of clarity but who else could create Trim. Uncle Toby and Parson Yorick and his horse intersposed with tale of the Abbess of Quedlingburg and the recreations of the sieges of King William's wars on the bowling green. For those who have never read it read and reread it is highly addictive and  each reading will occupy several pleasurable  days.

Paul

 

 

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Interesting. You mentioned reproducing props. Here are some I have done as a moonlight sideline to relieve previous corporate work tension. It is not my strong suit, but nevertheless I love these "creations." I actually used relatively common materials, not precious ones. The sceptre is a kingly type sceptre and not a wand type, but it didn't all fit in the photo frame. And I placed the existing heraldic eagle at the base of the orb for effect mainly.

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Interesting. You mentioned reproducing props. Here are some I have done as a moonlight sideline to relieve previous corporate work tension. It is not my strong suit, but nevertheless I love these "creations." I actually used relatively common materials, not precious ones. The sceptre is a kingly type sceptre and not a wand type, but it didn't all fit in the photo frame. And I placed the existing heraldic eagle at the base of the orb for effect mainly. I did not make the sword of course, simply bought that.

DSCN9746.JPG

Interesting. You mentioned reproducing props. Here are some I have done as a moonlight sideline to relieve previous corporate work tension. It is not my strong suit, but nevertheless I love these "creations." I actually used relatively common materials, not precious ones. The sceptre is a kingly type sceptre and not a wand type, but it didn't all fit in the photo frame. And I placed the existing heraldic eagle at the base of the orb for effect mainly. I did not make the sword of course, simply bought that. *Ther sword I simply bought.

Edited by eurorders

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Hello eurorders.

Thanks for your comments and what beautiful reproductions. You are a very talented fellow indeed.  I tend to stay in the area of less attractive archaeological specimen copies, such as the two mummies shown below. These are copies from photos of British museum specimens and represent the mummified remains of cats and hawks used as temple offerings in ancient Egypt. The wraps are on carved wooden bases and the wrapping style is as close as possible to the originals. I attempted to make the cat look as if the pitch and natron used on originals had seeped through the bandages. I was not all that pleased with the outcome even though it was pretty close to the originals. When I made the hawk mummy the wrappings were more complex and I didn't want to take away from their decorative looks so I simply artificially aged the bandages (as with the cat) and left it alone. I thought it was more pleasing to the eye.

Keep up the good work and if you have any more I would like to see them.

Thanks again,

Regards

Brian

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I, too, commend you in your creative endeavors and their good results.

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Thank you very much, that was greatly appreciated.

Regards

Brian

 

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