June 30, 2015
Authors Against Flowery Language
by Yifan Zhang
“You can phrase things clearer and better. You can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.” This note-to-self was found among Ernest Hemingway’s papers early last year. It is an intimate and humbling reminder that one’s writing can always be “clearer and better.”
The authors…say that national curriculum assessment criteria have become a “prescription for how to teach children to write (to pass the tests), with quite adverse effects on their writing skills”…[C]hildren are taught “not to use simple words such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘small’ or ‘big’ but to always find other more ‘interesting’ words to replace them – such as ‘wonderful’, ‘terrible’, ‘minuscule’ or ‘enormous’”.
“We’re teaching [children] [good prose] means stuffing writing with adjectives, rather than that good writing is about communication, and will vary depending on what you’re trying to communicate, what kinds of emotions you’re trying to stir up, what kind of character you’re trying to put into their minds.”