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Author Topic: “To write well in English, treat those long Latin nouns as the enemy”  (Read 2174 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: January 16, 2010, 03:41:26 AM »

Talking to the incoming international students at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in August last year, William Zinsser, author of the good-writing classic On Writing Well and 16 other books, pointed out that English isn’t as musical as Spanish, Italian, or French, isn’t as ornamental as Arabic, and isn’t as vibrant as some other foreign languages. Even so, he said, he is hopelessly in love with English “because it is plain and it is strong.” He explained: “It has a huge vocabulary of words that have precise shades of meaning; there’s no subject, however technical or complex, that can’t be made clear to any reader in good English—if it’s used right. Unfortunately, there are many ways of using it wrong.”

In his talk that was later published in the Winter 2010 issue of The American Scholar, Zinsser then proceeded to explain that to write well in English, writers need to desist from using the many long and pompous Latin words like “implementation,” “maximization,” and “communication” that strangle and suffocate the language. “Those long Latin usages,” he said, “have so infected everyday language in America that you might well think, ‘If that’s how people write who are running the country, that’s how I’m supposed to write.’ It’s not.”

Zinsser gave his audience many useful tips for effective writing, then concluded his talk by asking his audience to repeat this mantra after him: “Short is better than long. Simple is good. (Louder) Long Latin nouns are the enemy. Anglo-Saxon active verbs are your best friend. One thought per sentence.”

Read Zinsser’s “Writing English as a Second Language” in The American Scholar now!

About the Author:
William Zinsser is a writer, editor, and teacher who started his career as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune. He taught writing in the 1970s at Yale University, and served as executive editor of the Book-of-the-Month Club from 1979 to 1987. He now teaches at The New School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Among the 17 books he has written are the classic writing guide On Writing Well (now on its seventh edition), Writing to Learn, Writing with a Word Processor, and Writing About Your Life. In Writing About Your Life (2004), which he calls a “teaching memoir,” Zinsser recalls in 13 chapters the highlights of his life and career as a writer, editor, teacher, and traveler. His most enduring piece of advice to would-be memoir writers: “Follow your heart.” He recommends dwelling on “small, self-contained incidents” and making use of anecdotes and vivid memories.
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hill roberts
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2010, 05:33:42 PM »

Hi, Joe. Thank you once again for this interesting topic. Yes, I've read Mr Zinsser's very inspiring and useful advice to English lovers/writers. The five which I'd just like to remind myself and others here:
 1. Short is better than long

2. Simple is good

3. Long Latin nouns are the enemy

4. Ango-Saxon active verbs are your best friend

5.One thought per sentence

Incredible how one can simplify matters and make English sound very much like----English!


Thanks, Joe Kiss
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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2010, 09:31:27 AM »

You're welcome, Hill!
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