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Writing and the Internet: Essay on Improving Modern Writing

Writing and the Internet: Essay on Improving Modern Writing

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Published by Scott Gallagher
Some Old Time Remedies for the Modern Decline of the English Language.
Some Old Time Remedies for the Modern Decline of the English Language.

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Published by: Scott Gallagher on Jul 24, 2012
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07/24/2012

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 More people than ever before have the ability express themselves using computer keyboards andthen post their expressions online. This revolution in easy communication has proventremendously beneficial in a variety of areas with the notable exception of the English Language,which has deteriorated badly.For the first time in a quarter century, The Pulitzer Prize committee failed, this year, to choose afiction author worthy of their
 
eponymous
 
award. Naturally, this curious fact about a literary prizeinvolving the exclusive and increasingly irrelevant old-world publishing business may be a white
Writing and the Internet
Some Old Time Remedies for the Modern Decline of the English Language
 
 lion among tawny lions and may not be illustrative of the larger observation that I am attempting toshow about the horrible decline of written English.But my main concern is not professional writers since, for the most part--aside from getting paidfor their efforts--they muddle modern English as much as the average online typists.Clearly, the voracious demand for fresh content is the main reason for the proliferation of badwriting. The panting desire for new information for newness sake suffocates clarity, precision, andthoughtfulness, resulting in a breathless laziness. The pressure to appear relevant makes it easier,even convenient for a writer to fill each paragraph with stock words and silly phrases and staletropes. This thoughtless writing method quickly becomes habitual, as it requires memory ratherthan imagination.Since it is easier to describe hell than heaven, I shall list some of the ugly and yet avoidable faultsof the commonly seen bad modern writing:Stale Metaphors. A good metaphor uses vivid language to evoke a visual image. Stale metaphorsand similes have lost their evocative power by failing to create a useful mental picture. Clearlycomparing one thing to another by creating imagery is essential to communication andunderstanding. Without metaphors our active imagination atrophies, thinking stops and the result isgrunting and gesticulating like a child or a lost tourist.Examples:
 Melting pot, Ground Zero, the point of no return, slippery slope, a city on a hill, tunnelvision, fog of war, wedge issue, sacred cow, grassroots, Spin, Political football, moving thegoalposts, ax to grind, the ball is in your court, cutting edge of . . .
 "The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to
repeat it was possibly an idiot.”
--Salvador Dali (not and idiot, definitely a self-congratulatorydegenerate)Euphemisms. Euphemisms make distasteful words and phrases appear more palatable.Propagandists, advertisers, politicians and charlatans, employ such sophistryExamples:
 Armed intervention (war), collateral damage (dead civilians), neutralize (kill), revenueenhancement (taxes), full and frank discussion (honesty), food insecurity (starvation/hunger),downsize (fire//layoff), correctional facility (prison), enhanced interrogation (torture), pre-owned (used) ultimate sacrifice (death), ethnic cleansing (Genocide) . . .
Idiotic Idioms. While ready-made as wine writers that care for clarity should avoid silly, outmodedfigures of speech for engender lazy-minded prose and create a kind of 
 
narcolepsy
 
in thereader. Since idiomatic expressions pervade both speech and writing, without vigilance, if toomany of these decrepit rhetorical stalking horses trot into ones thoughts, they obscure onesmeaning.I suggest that in this technological age a writer who wants to be understood and is not also an avidsailor should quit using the age of sail idioms
(that ship has sailed, any port in a storm, a different tack, left high and dry, show someone the ropes, with flying colors, calm before the storm, in thesame boat).
 
 
 Similarly, a writer that does not also reside on a farm should stop using barnyard idioms
(Couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, count your chickens before they hatch, the fox guarding the hen-house, live high on the hog, chickens come home to roost, put the cart before the horse, cash cow.)
 Further mind-numbing animal idioms that need to be put in the doghouse:
hit the bull’s eye,
barking up the wrong tree, a wolf in sheep
’s clothing, that dog don’t hunt, straw that breaks thecamel’s back, don’t have a dog in the fight, dog 
-eat-dog, make a mountain out of a mole hill . . .
 Avail oneself of any of the above stale metaphors or idiotic idioms before using nonsensicalfigures of speech like
Two steps forward, one step back (patently stupid), less is more (really)throw out the baby with the bathwater (from a German--of course--proverb), and the elephant inthe room or the 800lb gorilla in the room,
etc.In common usage, these two animal images are interchangeable, and they evidently indicate anobviously important issue that heretofore has gone unremarked. Let us, if we may, scrutinize thesetwo platitudes closer.First, and the more often frequently used,
the elephant in the room
: I suggest that even a two-year-old would notice and insist on mentioning the obvious
elephant in a room.
 
Second, the elephant’s misused fellow beast, the
lurking
800lb gorilla in the room:
simply stated,no such creature exists in nature (King Kong is a fictional movie not based on actual events), andtherefore would be a remarkable sight indeed. Finally, any one that uses
the 800lb. Elephant in theroom
has abandoned clear thinking
 
and may want to retire.

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