Clear Writing

I love flowers, but not in my reading and writing. Some would-be writers use flowery language thinking that this impresses the reader.

You know the feeling you get when someone flatters you too much and you know it’s mostly b.s. because it is so over the top. You just want to roll your eyes, turn around, and stick your fingers down your throat.

Too many unnecessary descriptors are part of the problem with this kind of language. Too many big words chosen to impress rather than to convey a message. Too much verbiage.

Here are some examples of padded language and how it could be written instead.


Joe and I are preparing an elaborate springtime barbecue with delicious nibblies for all our wonderful friends. We would be thrilled to have your scintillating company and that  of your lovely partner when you come and enjoy a happy afternoon with the rest of our honoured guests.


We would be pleased to have you and Mary attend an afternoon barbecue with friends at our home.


I am convinced that you will have a wonderful afternoon while the red robins and the chatty finches keep us company with their trilling melodies, a sure sign that spring is truly arriving in our little corner of the world.


We can enjoy listening to the spring birds in the afternoon.


I can visualize the bustling scene, as animated, vociferous guests demand more bubbling refreshments.


I can imagine the busy party guests shouting for more champagne.


Using flowery words and too many of them becomes a turnoff for the reader. A related problem is using too many long words when a shorter one would do. If you are trying to convey a clear message, use shorter sentences, and words that are familiar to the reader. Write the way you would talk, unless you are writing a business letter or a report. But even then, keeping the language clear and concise is important. Flowery words have no place in serious writing. The aim is to express yourself clearly, not to show how many adjectives and adverbs you can cram into one sentence.

In Robert Gunning’s book, The Technique of Clear Writing, he has a long list of words that could easily be replaced by more familiar words. Here are some:

abandon         give up, desert

abatement      decrease

abbreviate      shorten

abhorrent       hateful

venturous      bold

voluminous    bulky

Often you can substitute a more familiar word for one that sounds as if it were chosen merely to impress.

If you tend to get too wordy when something simple would suffice, consider this limerick about using too many words.

There was a young man from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When asked why that was,
He replied “It’s because
I always try to fit as many words into the last line as ever I possibly can.”








14 thoughts on “Clear Writing

  1. Yeah, totally agree with picking the less-purple options, but I have to say that sometimes the ‘fancier’ words can work when used in the right places, as they could end up sounding better to the ear than their shorter counterpart—only in certain situations. Dan Abnett does this well I feel. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, Stuart. When you use fancier words, they have to belong. They need to fit with the speaker’s voice and the situation. The examples I gave are very simple, to make my point, but of course, there is a place to put the more colourful language. It just has to be done carefully. What I was thinking of is when people assume that putting in flowery language makes them a better writer. Usually that’s a beginning writer’s mistake. Thanks so much for your comment. Makes a lot of sense.


  2. Thanks for commenting on the occasional use of a flowery voice to influence negative feelings toward a character. A subtle way to showcase the bad guy or gal with going over the top.

    Liked by 1 person

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