Avoid Euphemisms in Your Writing

March 28, 2012

When I taught writing classes at a local college, I kept underscoring the importance of writing in active voice because readers prefer it. I’d also tell my students that government, academia, and business writing are all typically written in passive voice. Then I’d challenge them to remember the last time they stood in line to get a highly desired copy of the most recent tax code or company policy on something. As I saw the smiles appear on my students’ faces, I knew they understood.

Another thing organizations that prefer passive voice use is euphemisms. Here are some examples.

  • Temporarily displaced inventory means stolen goods.
  • Thermal therapy kit means bag of ice cubes.
  • Substantive negative outcome means failed.
  • Reutilization marketing location means junkyard.
  • Negative gain in test scores means lower test scores.
  • Synthetic glass means plastic.
  • Suffers from fictitious disorder syndrome means lies.
  • Vegetarian leather means vinyl.

I expect some of these examples brought a smile to your face. But my point is to encourage you to write clearly so your reader can follow you and get your point rather to entertain you. I hope these examples help you see the importance of writing succinctly and clearly.

Happy writing!

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Engage Your Brain

March 5, 2012

Good writing requires creativity, It also requires you follow certain rules or conventions of grammar and punctuation, capitalization and word usage. What do all of these things have in common? They require you engage your brain.

Here are some things you can do to keep you sharp mentally.

  • Expand your vocabulary. We all have favorite words, and we risk overusing them when we write. How many words can you think of to use instead of the word write? How about compose? Record? Pen? Mark? Inscribe? Author? Script? Create? Note? Jot down? Correspond? Drop a line? Devise? Well, you get the idea.
  • Listen to something new on the radio. The variety is vast: talk radio, hard rock, country music, public radio–news, public radio–classical music, sports, news, etc. Listening to someone you disagree with gets you thinking about how to counter their statements. Listening to different types of music creates different moods/responses you may otherwise miss. Listening to people talk on the radio helps you write dialogue because you hear how people say things.
  • Think about what you’re doing or writing. If you’ve ever gone into a room and forgotten why, you know what I’m talking about. We’re so often on automatic pilot that we don’t think about what we’re doing. When this happens, trace the actions you just took back in your mind and you’ll most likely trigger something to remind you about what you’re doing. It will also help you figure out why your characters are doing what they’re doing or why you included one piece of information and not another in your book.
  • Walk briskly for 20 minutes every day. There really is a mind-body connection and walking gets your blood flowing through your body, which includes your brain.

See if you can adapt at least one of these exercises per week for the next 4 weeks. Most likely you’ll be more creative and your writing will show it.

Happy writing!