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Verbal diarrhea

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There are two practices universally frowned upon in writing:

  1. Excessively long phrases, paragraphs
  2. Excessively rare words that nobody knows (apart from the author)
Verbal diarrhea - ever seen people who can't seem to stop talking? Funny to watch on 2x rewind XD

Verbal diarrhea - ever seen people who can't seem to stop talking? Funny to watch on 2x rewind XD

There are exceptions in both cases, of course. It’s okay, for example, to have long paragraphs when you’re writing a thesis on telomerase (still not recommended). When you’re a specialist in a field, it’s necessary to use words nobody else knows about. For example, ‘panthera tigris tigris’ (Bengal tiger) doesn’t become ‘an orange mammal with orange fur and black stripes found in Bangladesh and India’. That’s redundant.

But, when we have a choice, it’s often better to keep things short and simple.

One of my teachers used to refer to this as ‘verbal diarrhea’, which makes perfect sense. It also suited me very well because I had a bad habit of typing in font sizes 10 or below, and cramming everything in one paragraph. Why? Because I thought I could save a piece of paper! (As I make more entries, you’ll see I can use VERY roundabout methods to achieve a goal, usually quite mundane… XP )

That’s never too wise a decision to make.

Then, there’s the problem with using difficult words. When writing, I think many students ask themselves this question at least once: sesquipedalian verbosity or simple English? Apparently, most associate ‘outstanding work’ with ‘the need to utilize rambunctiously complex locution to impress the professor’. According to Robert Cialdini, a professor of social psychology, author of the best-selling books ‘Influence’ and ‘Yes!’, this will backfire right back at you.

Here’s one of the examples in his book ‘Yes!’ to demonstrate the point:

‘“We’re leveraging our assets and establishing strategic alliances to create a robust knowledge center –one with a customer-ruled business structure using market-leading technologies to maximize our human systems.”

Huh? This apparently means, “We’re consultants.”’

–          Yes!

pg. 162, Lines 5-10
Robert B. Cialdini

Simon & Schuster Inc., 2008

So, the next time you see someone trying to use uncommon word, remind them of the type of reception it’d get.

Expected: Prideful glee on the author’s side
Also expected: ‘Huh?’ and a frown to readers