In an earlier blog called Readability, I introduced you to the Fog Index. This is a writing tool to help you adjust your readability to the level of your target audience. Principally this involves limiting the number of three-syllable words and the length of your sentences.
I now bring to your attention the world of Gobbledygook. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, this is the term used for speech or writing that is complicated and is difficult to understand. Here are some synonyms: nonsense, mumbo jumbo, balderdash, claptrap, blather, baloney, bilge, drivel, tripe, bull, bunk, twaddle, poppycock, phooey, hooey.
Complicated is the word to pay attention to in the definition of Gobbledygook. Why would anyone knowingly use complicated words in their writing? Answer: We live in the world of “overkill” where ordinary or simple is thought of as low class and difficult is thought of as high class. Aspiring writers who are not sure of themselves and have not found their voice (see below) in writing, use gobbledygook in their quest to impress.
Many writers use stiff, complicated language as a hedge against those who might criticize their works. They attempt to overwhelm their audience by using rare, unusual words guaranteed to send their readers running to a dictionary. Most times though this sort of bilge serves to cover up a writer’s lack of insight about a subject. Many, many would-be writers attend workshops or higher education courses where gobbledygook is used to promote elitism. Having become properly brainwashed, these worshipers of gobbledygook pompously go out into the creative world and give vent to their new found blather.
Gobbledygook users in speech as well as writing are unfriendly communicators. They are just not sure enough of their means of expressing themselves to be friendly. They are looked upon as being cold in their communication, or phonies or pretentious. Many think one should strive to be elitist in writing and via gobbledygook they find their niche. Nothing could be further from the truth. Try to think of one writer who has become famous by using gobbledygook. I can’t name the first. When a writer and a reader connect like buddies, that is the best union. Such a warm bond will never happen with gobbledygook as the go between.
A Writer’s Voice. This means that gobbledygook is kept to an absolute minimum and what you write or say sounds friendly and intimate. It takes a lot of thought and practice to finally find your voice in communication. Cold and formal just doesn’t cut it. Warm and friendly does.
Warming up your writing. First of all, get rid of words and phrases that sound cold and formidable. Replace them with warm, short and quickly understood words or phrases. Examples:
|acknowledge receipt of||received|
|at your convenience||(give a specific date)|
|beg to differ||disagree|
|henceforth||from now on|
|as per your request||as you requested|
|it has come to my attention||I have learned|
|take pleasure||are glad|
|at the present time||now|
|feel free to||please|
|put in an appearance||came|
|activate||begin or start|
|bloviate||speak in an affected manner|
|dignotion||birthmark, mole, tattoo|
|kench||to laugh loudly|
Sentence Beginnings: The subject noun is the star of your sentence. If your star can be visualized via a concrete noun (things you can touch—cat, book, chair), you have warmth. If your reader or listener can “see” the beginning of your sentence, you’re off to a great start. If you begin your sentence with there is, there are, it or an abstract noun (things you can’t touch—philosophy, selfishness, etc.) you are cold and have weakly begun your sentence.
|There is a cat under my bed.||A cat is under my bed.|
|There are books on the table.||Books are on the table.|
|There are 12 students in my class.||Twelve students are in my class.|
|It was a cold and dreary night.||The night was cold and dreary.|
Here are some famous quotations from U. S. History that have been put into Gobbledygook. They would never be as often repeated as their origins.
“I regret that I have but one life to give to my country.” (Nathan Hale)
It is regretted that this speaker lacks a multiplicity of lives which, under prevailing circumstances, might be offered on behalf of this nation.
“Fire when ready.” (Admiral Dewey. Spanish-American War 1898)
After assuring yourself that all pertinent procedures and preparations have been accomplished, permission is granted to initiate the overall implementation of combat operations.
“Don’t fire until you’ve seen the whites of their eyes.” (William Prescott, Battle of Bunker Hill, Revolutionary War)
Defensive fire operations will commence only after it is possible to discern the distal corneas surrounding the pupils of the advancing enemy.
“I shall return.” (Douglas MacArthur.)
At some unspecified point in time, this speaker assures his certain reversion to this place.
Last Word: Be warm in your writing and speaking. It can bring you fun and wealth and the success you’ve been craving.