Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Source: PowerPoint
I fear our high schools do writers—both for business and for fiction—a disservice by merely assigning students to write a specified number of words. Clarity in business writing is important. It’s no less so in novel writing.

Padding our word counts by saying something simple in the longest possible way doesn't help clarity. While there might be an occasional character who speaks this way, most of the time we want to avoid this.

Following is a fun exercise we did for a business writing session at a conference I attended this year. It’s taken well-known proverbs and done a high school student job on them.

Can you figure out what they are?
  1. An ignoramus and his lucre are readily disjoined.
  2. In the absence of the feline race, certain small rodents will give themselves up to various pleasurable pastimes.
  3. A plethora of culinary specialists vitiate the liquid in which a variety of nutritional substances have been simmered.
  4. Impetuous celebrity engenders purposeless spoilage.
  5. Illegal transgression has no renumeration for its perpetrators.
  6. A winged and feathered animal in the digital limb is as valuable as a duet in the shrubbery.
  7. The warm-blooded class Ave who is governed by promptitude can apprehend the small, elongated and slender creeping animal.
  8. Provide the privilege of affranchisement, or I will feel that life is not worth living.
  9. A conditional characterized by tardiness is more desirable than one that is systematically marked by eternal absenteeism.


  1. I think I like you proverbs better than the orifinals. Bought a smile to my face at least...

  2. Great examples. My favorite is "While the cat's away the mice will play!"

  3. Some of those are so convoluted I don't even understand them!

  4. These are so great! I remember doing the same thing in High School. Funny how the meaning is totally lost. I think #2 is either too many cooks in the kitchen, or a watched pot never boils, but I can't even be sure about that!

  5. This feline will get those rats haha yeah I think they do a diservice too.

  6. May I just proclaim my positive reaction to this most glorious example of verbosity on steroids. LOL.

    My son was complaining about this the other day. He says he can say what he needs to say in a couple of pages, but the assignment is usually for five pages, so he starts adding in the filler. Yeah, not really serving the purpose of teaching concise writing, is it?

  7. I got them all except #4. For some reason, that one's eluding me.

  8. ROFL And I thought I knew how to pad my word count when I was in high school. Apparently I needed to attend Donna's School of Report Writing. :D

  9. I agree. I once turned in something purposely short because I could make my point with fewer words. Still got an A. When asked afterward, I said, "I don't mean to disrespect you, but less is more, right?" I should have asked if extra credit was in order, but that would've gone too far. :)

  10. This hits close to home for me. I recently edited a final essay for my son and had to instruct him how to pad it to bump his count by 150 words for a 10 page paper. It went against everything I stand for as an editor.

  11. I got all but #4 and #8. I'm sure if I waited around long enough I could figure them out but I'm bound for bed.

    I had Senior Seminar when I was a freshman so I basically hit the ground running. My teachers all insisted that we not overload them with bull. I also had a dad who taught German and English. He drilled correct usage into our heads constantly.

    And now I'll dump the spider outside that just flew down in front of my face, before he can climb back up to my fingers.

  12. Um . . . I have no idea what any of these are! Case in point, I guess. :P

  13. Fun exercise! I'm not sure about #4. #7 took me a moment. I never thought about the word count being a disservice, but then I always had trouble staying under the word count. I can definitely see what you mean, though.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  14. Oh, Sean Connery . . . heart be still Why didn't I think of him when I wrote my Alex post?


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