Have you ever read something about a subject and found it hard to follow? There are some papers and articles that leave me totally confused and somewhat chastened. When it is about a subject that I know nothing about I assume that my confusion is simply due to ignorance, but when the article is about something that I am familiar with, I realize that my confusion is usually due to bad writing. This has happened often enough to make me suspect that my inability to follow some articles is not due to ignorance of the subject but due to the author’s inability to write clearly.
These articles are often unnecessarily filled with jargon and convoluted syntax. It is as if the author thinks that obfuscation is a direct reflection of his erudition, forgetting that the purpose of writing is to communicate and not to preen. I have even heard people accuse one another of being mentally deficient because they are unable to comprehend the meaning of some obscure and pedantic piece of writing.
When this type of writing is inadvertent, I can sympathise with the author who apparently is unable to present his ideas in a coherent and easily understood manner. However, I suspect that often such writers have bought into the idea that obscurity somehow reflects the depth of their thinking.
The ability to write in an obfuscatory and confusing manner is not difficult. On the contrary, it is much easier to sprinkle one’s diction with obscure references and oddly specialized bits of jargon, trying to impress people with one’s profundity, than it is to write spare, concise prose which presents even difficult subjects in a clear, understandable manner.
Personally, I find it extraordinarily difficult to write in a clear and precise manner. Almost inadvertently I find that I tend to throw in tortuous ways of saying something that with a little bit of effort, a modicum of attention, can avoid the serpentine, almost labyrinthine, style, reminiscent of bald-pated academics, squatting in their towers of ivory, poring over ancient, crumbling tomes of some bygone age with liver-spotted hands, absorbed in the rapt contemplation of their umbilicus…::cough::
Hey, the date is 07-07-07!