Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Category Archives: clarity

Clarity in Language

Blogs are supposed to be places where you get unfiltered, undiluted information. Of course, it comes with a bias, and the problem is not that that bias exists, but that it causes people to write–and read–without clarity in order to make a point. For example, this piece from last week’s “Right Wing Nut House”:

The Republicans, also seeking to get control of the primary process, took away half the delegates from Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, Wyoming, and New Hampshire – also as a result of their violations of primary scheduling rules. They also allowed full participation by all candidates in those primaries.

As a result, while there was some grumbling and even some legal challenges, the primaries went forward on the Republican side with little or no backlash.

It’s that last sentence that I want to call out. It’s easy to read it, especially if it’s one of ten blogs you’re looking at to get your morning news, and say “yeah, there was no backlash on the Republican side.” But if you examine it more closely…well, grumbling by itself might fall under “little backlash.” But “legal challenges”? Isn’t that a fairly large backlash? It’s not been well-publicized, but still, you could rewrite that sentence factually as: “As a result, while there was some backlash, the primaries went forward on the Republican side with little or no backlash.”

Doesn’t sound quite as informative, does it? More accurate would be for the author to have written: “As a result, while there was some grumbling and even some legal challenges, the primaries went forward on the Republican side with much less backlash than the Democrats are now experiencing.”

I don’t mean this to be a political post, or to call out the accuracy of the facts. I just hate unclear writing, especially when it is trying to influence people’s attitudes.

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