Readable Writing Rule #2: Keep the Pomposity Factor Low

How “elevated” should your writing be?

When was the last time you walked up to someone and said, “As per our conversation of the 10th, I wish to provide additional information which prior to this time was not available.”

It’s probably been awhile since you said anything like that to someone, and it certainly should be a very long while before you write anything like that.

Effective writing does not require a special vocabulary, extra complex rules of grammar, verbosity or pomposity

You do not need to write: “Having ascertained the deleterious effects of the said product when utilized in the manner recently brought to our attention by the above-referenced, we shall recommend that it be used in only the prescribed manner.”

It’s perfectly okay to write, “Now that we’re aware of the problem, we’ll devise rules for using the product safely.”

Neither should you feel compelled to write: “Upon receipt of the information described here within, we shall immediately endeavor to bring the project to a satisfactory conclusion.”

The language in that sentence is slippery: Who is supposed to send the information? What is a satisfactory conclusion?

It’s simpler and much clearer to write: “We’ll finish the project as soon as you send the information.”

Be simple and direct

Don’t write as you imagine a pompous diplomat would speak. Instead, keep the pomposity factor low. Talk to the reader, using pen instead of voice.

Get rid of phrases such as: “Recognizing that one can actualize the beneficial potential of said program by effectualizing the process,” and “Allow me to reflect upon the nostalgia induced by the introduction of keepsakes to my memory.”

Unless you talk that way, don’t write that way. (And even if you do talk that way, don’t write that way.)

Just talk to your readers, plain and simple.

As an exercise…

Try lowering the pomposity factor in the following sentences (suggested answers are below).

  1. Cephalic pain-relief of the common variety is generally effectively achieved with the oral introduction of medications of an analgesic nature specifically formulated from the original German formula to reduce the above referenced pain.
  2. The hundredth part of a dollar, when segregated from funds earmarked for expenditure, is equivalent to the same acquired as compensation for merchandise or services provided.
  3. Thus you can see that my point, when viewed in the proper perspective, and according to guidelines of the parameters previously agreed upon, harmonizes with the arguments presented in favor of the position you have defended.

Suggested answers

  1. Aspirin usually relieves headache pain.
  2. A penny saved is a penny earned.
  3. I agree.

For more ways to make your writing sparkle, see “Readable Writing Review.”

I’m Barry Fox, a New York Times #1 bestselling ghostwriter. I help executives, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and top professionals create top-notch memoirs and business books. I can also guide you through the self-publishing process. Call me at 818-917-5362.