Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How Not to Sound Like a Pretentious Writer

From Writerslife.org:

When it comes to writing, whether fact or fiction, it is easy to sound pretentious. This can happen for many reasons be it that our egos want the reader to know how intelligent we are, or that we think readers won’t enjoy our writing if we don’t make it as smart as possible.
However, the problem with putting too much effort into writing intellectually is that not only does it slow us down and make us overthink things, it can also act as a distraction when it comes to getting out point across or advancing our plot.
So what can you do to ensure that you don’t sound like a pretentious writer? Follow these useful tips.

Check your language
Using an abundance of long and complicated words could put your reader off. Every time they have to check the meaning of a word, you have effectively taken them out of the story. If this happens too often it will be impossible to keep up, either they just won’t be able to immerse themselves in your novel, or they just won’t understand it! Reading your writing aloud to get an idea of whether it flows well or feels too convoluted and complicated is also a good idea.

Identify your reader
When it comes to avoiding pretentious writing, knowing who your reader is can help. Think about who you are hoping will read and appreciate your work. If you are writing a fictitious story for the general population, you should try to avoid creating a piece of writing that is overly complex. The average reading level for an adult American is that of a 7th or 8th grader, and aged nine years old in the UK, so it is essential to bear this in mind as you write.

Have fun with your writing
Writing should be fun and if you are having fun and enjoying what you do you are less likely to get bogged down in trying to make your writing seem too clever. Your enjoyment and enthusiasm will come through in your book and will mean your readers enjoy reading your work more too. The more sincere and truthful you are with your story the more genuine and authentic it will seem too.

Don’t over complicate your plot
An overly complicated plot can be difficult to follow and can confuse your readers. While it’s great to be smart and surprise your readers if you try too hard to confuse them or make your story too complicated to follow they’ll soon lose interest and may give up altogether.

Don’t over punctuate
Over punctuating or trying to be too smart with your use of punctuation can also be considered pretentious and may be off-putting to your reader. Some authors do choose to use punctuation as a stylistic technique in their writing. However, if you aren’t sure it works, it’s probably best to leave it out.

By following the tips above you can ensure your writing doesn’t come across as pretentious or confusing, while still being able to write with style. Remember, you can write however you like, but if you want your writing to be enjoyed by others you do always have to keep your reader in mind!

How many of these have given any of you writers out there any trouble, if any at all? The first point I'd like to comment on, as I try to avoid using words that I rarely use, and if I use them at all, I have to be careful not to use them more than once. How many of you have ever used words like "taciturn" or  "neophyte,"  for instance? I didn't use these in my memoir, but it if I had, I would not have repeated them more than once. These just aren't used everyday and would definitely confuse the reader as suggested above.

As for punctuation, there were numerous times in my memoir when I wasn't sure whether to use a comma or dashes to offset a descriptive phrase. For example:

...They acted as if I’d missed the event of the year, when all I missed was one of those movies that—like The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Ten Commandments—comes on TV every single year. ...
As you can see, I used the dashes, but am still not sure if I should have done it that way or if I should have used commas. And I believe this was just one instance when I wasn't sure how to offset a descriptive phrase this way. How do you think it should be done?
I've tried not to sound too overly clever in my writing. I may have a been a bit descriptive (in some people's minds), but it was just to make somethings clear and to describe some settings, such as the playground at the daycare I once attended, and several medical offices I have attended. I describe them to the best f my knowledge, to pit the picture the reader is trying to see. This is one important point in writing.
And I always make sure to have fun with writing. You're supposed to feel that way.


Sandra Cox said...

I like dashes. I also like taciturn. It brings to mind, for me, strong, silent, alpha males.

Sandra Cox said...

Getting the description down without over or under doing it can be a bit of a balancing act, can't it?