Writing on the Super Note A5X

Bad Writing in Modern English

I teach my students George Orwell's classic essay Politics and the English Language because he attacks lousy, pretentious prose with comedic indirect satire that is largely dead in modern writing. The writing of today typically dips into sarcasm, an easy below the belt tactic that contributes to the death of civil discourse in professional life. No manager or supervisor should confuse poorly toned writing for professionalism or leadership. Typing out a poorly constructed directive in all caps and sending it out to team members at an inopportune time illuminates nothing in the workplace except the sender's lack of expertise. Poorly timed, poorly toned messages disappoint dedicated people and destroy emerging relationships.

One year during the pandemic on Thanksgiving day, I sat across an old friend in a dilapidated easy chair, and while watching television, the email on my phone dinged. A smart person might have ignored the dinging, but it was Thanksgiving day. I assumed an emergency happened at my work, maybe to a fellow colleague. Instead, this message asked me to verify someone's classroom attendance. This kind of thing can't be fixed during a holiday break. It is the sort of message that scheduled for a Monday morning delivery, might have been more digestible. All writers and professionals should know that the timing of your message is almost as important as the tone and content.

I love the way Orwell addresses the issue with tacked on phraseology. Right now I have a 'hen house' phrase that I am sick and tired of hearing: "That being said."

Anywhere you go, in any setting, you will hear or read some pretentious attempt at professionalism, but the aforementioned phrase above reduces whatever the writer or speaker is trying to say into a pile of meaningless rubble. Orwell, if he were here beside me today, would likely wish he was back in India working as a cop again rather than listen to the lousy prose present in 21st century mass media. He lists out "operator, or verbal false limbs" in his characteristic indirect satirical style without mercy or embellishment. Phrases such as, with respect to, the fact that, in the interests of, with respect to, and so on, exemplify what he means by "tacked on phrases" that convey nothing to an audience.

Many times my students try to write with pretentious diction. Sometimes the results are funny and charming, but overall this kind of writing will not assist the student in any academic or business venture. And people posing as professionals ought to write clearly and with empathy, timing messages with care, rather than trying to dictate to others as if they exist on a royal pedestal when, clearly, in today's society, anyone is replaceable.

Orwell1984

 

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