It is Clear that... I Am Awful at Writing.

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"Simplify.  Most first drafts are about 50% deadwood."

I was thinking about the reasons why people put fluff in their essays.  Perhaps it is a problem with wordiness.  Then again, the problem might stem from the writer's difficulty to organize his or her thoughts.  However, what if it is something completely different?  What if assumptions about books play into a writer's struggle with wordiness?  Ask an everyday person on what qualites they associate with books.  What do think they will say?  More often than not, the person will hightlight qualites such as extended lenght, intelligence, and perhaps long-windedness as tpyical traits of a book.  It is true that all books contain at least some intelligence (however limited it may be).  On the other hand, not all books are long and/or long-winded (though some sadly are).  The goal of books is to pass on knowledge.  Then what does a person gain from fostering assumptions about books?  I think the result is the afromentioned fluff present in some essays.  People associate intelligence with the long, boring diatribes printed in those imagined tomes.  So naturally, fluff begats fluff.  That is it for my rant, you can go back to watching TV now.

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3 Comments

Good points, Ethan. Academic textbooks that students are likely to read in their first years at university are designed to have lots of boxes and bulleted lists and pictures, but the studies that scholars write for other scholars to read are completely different.

What a high school freshman needs to read for a homework assignment is different from what a scholar with 20 years of experience in a subject expects to read from a scholar with 30 years of experience in the subject. So what might look like long-winded diatribe to the high school freshman is ambrosia to the scholar. What looks like oversimplified pandering to the scholar is a goldmine to the high school freshman. Very few writers can be interesting to the general reader AND relevant to the advanced scholar at the same time. But understanding the author's intended audience is a big step towards the critical assessment of sources.

Greta Carroll said:

Ethan that is a really good point. People who are not trained as writers and do not understand what goes into writing may think (from what they have read) that writing is meant to use a lot of flowery (and sometimes unnecessary) words. Novice writers are trying to impersonate other greater writers who came before them, thinking they will achieve success through impersonating other people’s styles. I think it is not only a lesson in realizing who the audience of a work is, but also one in finding your own style and not copying someone else’s.

Kaitlin Monier said:

The reason I put fluff in my essays is because all through high school, I was trained to write according to length rather than ideas. I tend to state something in one sentence that other people can go on for a paragraph, so it was always difficult for me to write five page papers. That is where the fluff comes in.

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