Wednesday, November 25, 2009

College-Level Writing Mistakes

This is part four of a five-part series on writing mistakes.
There is a still more subtle collection of common writing errors that crop up whenever an author tries too hard to sound clever. Here are the key symptoms:

1) Flowery writing.
2) Pretentious vocabulary.
3) Unnecessarily complex sentence structure.
4) Reliance on jargon.

The result is pompous and informationally bankrupt writing, and most of us were deeply guilty of writing just like this back in our college days.

Here are a few tips to help strip away college-level writing errors:

1) Break up all complex sentences into simple sentences, and try to train yourself to compose your first draft text in simple sentences. It will help clarify your thinking.

2) Look over your word choices and strip out words that make you sound like you're trying too hard to impress the reader. Don't be a show-off. It betrays a lack of confidence.

3) If at all possible, avoid using jargon. But in instances where some jargon use is unavoidable, be sure to translate each example of jargon into clear and understandable language for your readers. Do this at least once for each term, and be sure to do it early on in your piece. And then explain to the reader that you will use the jargon term for the remainder of the article.