Ilene Springer
Professional Teacher
Learning Article : Write To Express, Not To Impress

Discuss the Article : Write To Express, Not To Impress

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When writing essays for official language tests, such as the IELTS or TEOFL,  or for cover letters, students think they need complicated sentences to make a good impression on the reader.   When you write to impress, you often use words that are sophisticated but usually uncommon and unnecessary.

May 29, 2014 12:00 AM
Comments · 28

I very much agree with your position of clarity above <em></em>aesthetics.  I'm sure we've all been frustrated after reading a single sentence over and over again only to realise that the point isn't exactly profound and could have been perfectly expressed in half the number of words!  

 

That's why I encourage everyone to read their work ten times over and to try their best to assume the mind of an "external" reader.  Asking other people to read your work is also a great option (prior to submission of course!).  

 

However, once an advanced level of fluency is attained, I do also encourage people to be creative and aware of impact (for example, making well-informed choices given a list of synonyms).  While I certainly still advocate clarity, we shouldn't understand the ability of well-crafted language to affect an audience.  One has only to hear the rousing and beautiful oratory of Winston Churchill to appreciate that the ability to use language accurately carries tremendous power to provoke emotion and to stir an audience.  

 

One of my favourite speakers is Daniel Hannan (check him out on YouTube!), a British Member of the European Parliament.  He articulates himself plainly but eloquently (this statement won't sound so oxymoronic when you listen to one of his speeches!).  His well chosen words and natural charisma leaves listeners inspired and impassioned!

 

June 2, 2014

Totally agree! But, frankly speaking, there's often some mysterious drive to excel among learners of a language.

May 30, 2014

I agree, some of my students (French learners) makes the same mistake, it can make them sound like knights in shiny armor and they don't understand why it's funny/odd.

I do it too, the same to some extend when I speak in English. I used to be a lawyer, so in French I can be eloquent or even intimidating if needed and I would like to have the same power in English. Once I was talking about "speleology" to my (British) husband. He said "I've never heard the term speleology" so when I explained what I meant he said "oh you mean caving!" It's hard to express the disappointment that springs from the loss of a good word.

June 5, 2014

Hi Sundeep--thanks so much for your nice comment. What a cute photo!--Ilene Springer

June 1, 2014

Thanks so much, Sudeep!  Ilene Springer

May 29, 2014
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Ilene Springer
Language Skills
English, French, Hebrew
Learning Language