Are you “Writing Well?”

If you are someone who writes for the college, whether professionally or just in email, you might want to check out “On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction,” by William Zinsser. NCMPR’s Jaclyn Garver does an excellent job of hitting some of the high points here.

Some things Jaclyn highlights from the book are especially pertinent to those who write for higher education, such as:

De-clutter your writing. “Clutter is the disease of American writing.” It’s Zinsser’s first point in his second chapter, “Simplicity.” “We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” For example: You don’t have to talk about actions that need to happen “at this point in time”—they need to happen now. Not “The college is experiencing a decline in enrollment,” but “Enrollment is declining.” As Zinsser points out, “Clutter is the official language used by corporations to hide their mistakes.” In short, be up front with people.

Use everyday words. If you set out to dress up your words, the reader will notice, and it will sound insincere. An example: You don’t have to “implore” people to take action—just ask them. You’re not making “modifications” to the academic structure—you’re changing it.
Know the meaning of words. Seems obvious, but imprecise verbiage has its way of sneaking into copy. A big offender? “Unique.” It means “one-of-a-kind,” not “rare,” not “unusual” or “uncommon.” It means, “just one, ever.” No college or university has “unique” students, unless Big Foot has recently enrolled. It has, instead, students in unusual circumstances or students who are in the minority.
Visit www.ncmpr.org/ncmpr-blog-detail/133 to see Jaclyn Garver’s complete blog post on the book.