I found a book which has pointed out that I have little knowledge when it comes to a firm understanding of the English Language. This book, “Collins Complete Writing Guide” by Graham King, is a rare find. To be read in doses (as there is just so much great information) it is teaching me lessons in ways I cannot define. I had once believed myself a lover of words, someone who understood how to use and manipulate them to express myself in ways I thought others could not. Yes, I am able express myself quite easily through words and I do love writing. But does that make me any more of a writer than the next person? From this book I am recognizing my indulgent tendencies that only point out my ignorance.
Circumlocution is a word that until this book, I had read but never stopped to actually think what it actually meant. A tendency I believe many of us do when we come across a new word we do not recognize. What is Circumlocution? It is when you use many words to describe something when a simpler expression could be used instead. I find this in my writing often. For example, instead of writing “apart from the fact that” one could just get to the point and write “but”. Simple right? I find it a wonder how people tend to go for a lengthy way to describe something when the same message could be delivered so much faster. But I am just as guilty of this style of writing.
Being unable to avoid abstract words is also something I need to improve on. Using abstract nouns when a concrete noun exists occurs often. Here is example out of the book, the word ‘Aspect’.
“This word when correctly used means the way in which a landscape, a problem or a situation may be viewed: When looked at from the aspect of Britain’s interests the proposal is unsatisfactory. But when the word is used to mean part or consideration, a sentence can become soggy: The government must consider the economic aspect. Readers’ minds always have to work harder when confronted by abstract nouns, adverbial and adjectival phrases” (King, 2009, pp.489).
Is that not our main goal as writers? For our readers to understand what we are saying and not lose their interest through confused or muddled up words. Of course there are some works out there that do just that. We can appreciate their prose as it is fitting. But many times books or articles indulging too much in using abstract nouns can keep away potential readers. Have you ever read a book that you had to put down because your mind was getting tired from reading such “heavy” material. What made it heavy? You may find it was because there were so many abstract words being used. Here’s an example to demonstrate this point: Element – as in there was a rebel element in the village. Try there were rebels in the village. Do you see what I mean? Cutting the abstract word eliminates any chance of an ambiguous or misunderstood word in this sentence.
These are not the only flaws I have found. There are many, as I am beginning to find out. How could I not recognize this? A talent or perhaps a grasp on such a complex language takes time, passion even. Passion you ask? Well why not? There are plays on words, games, metaphors, structures, tenses, contexts…the list goes on. How could one not lose themselves in the language? Language isn’t just a tool to communicate. It has life, history There are meanings rooted so deeply in our culture one could not separate words from belief systems.
I feel excited when reading books such as these. I am on an adventure through language and learning every day. I wish to become a better writer, and if that means getting lost in the language from time to time, then I will. King’s book is a great resource. I bring the book with me everywhere. Each chapter has something new and I believe something ground breaking and life changing to the way I think and write. If you are a writer or interested in learning more about the deeper lessons that the English language has to teach, I recommend you read this book.
Have a read and find out more for yourself:
King, Graham (2009) “Collins Complete Writing Guide”, Harper Collins Publisher.