A blupete Essay

Fancy Words & Muddled Meaning, Part 5 to blupete's Essay
"On Writing"

Macaulay's first law in writing is that "the words employed shall be such as convey to the reader the meaning of the writer."

It was the great French writer, Gustave Flaubert, who was of the opinion that there were not two ways of saying a thing, but only one, and that the wording must fit the thought as the glove fits the hand. Flaubert's ideal is, of course, to be aimed at; the goal, success in writing, more generally, however, will likely come to the person who learns to write simply. No one would argue with W. Somerset Maugham's success, and his advise was: "When the amateur ... sits down to write he thinks he must use grand words rather than ordinary ones. It is only by practice that he learns to write simply." (Great Novelists.) Disaster comes about when a writer makes an "affectionate study of eloquence." What happens is that he begins "to hunt more after words than matter, and more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, soundness of argument, life of invention or depth of judgment." (Francis Bacon.)6

"Aim at things, and your words will be right without aiming. Guard against love of display, love of singularity, love of seeming original. Aim at meaning what you say, and saying what you mean. When a man who is full of his subject and has matured his powers of expression sets himself to speak thus simply and sincerely, whatever there is in him of strength or sweetness, of dignity or grace, of humor or pathos, will find its way out naturally into his language. That language will be true to his thought, true to the man himself."7
One should avoid fancy words and always favour the simple expression to the complex; one should endeavour always to choose the right word. I made reference earlier to what W. Somerset Maugham wrote of Gustave Flaubert, how it was Flaubert's opinion "that the wording must fit the thought as the glove fits the hand."
"... he [Flaubert] worked hard. Before starting on a book he read everything he could find that was pertinent. He made voluminous notes. When writing he would sketch out roughly what he wished to say and then work on what he had written, elaborating, cutting, rewriting, till he got the effect he wanted. That done, he would go out onto his terrace and shout out the phrases he had written, convinced that if they did not sound well to the ear, if by their form they were not perfectly easy to say, there must be something wrong with them." (Great Novelists.)

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