In case you missed it, Weird Al Yankovic is back in the act, bringing us the masterpiece that is Word Crimes. Parodying Robin Thicke’s less-than-masterful Blurred Lines, Weird Al takes on the wonderful world of words and strives to educate us on all things – err – wordy.
Inspired by this stunning tribute, here is a breakdown of some of the word crimes that involve covering up or blurring the meaning in a piece of prose. Are you guilty of these gaffes?
Jargon refers to language that is specific to a particular profession or group, such as the medical or legal industries. Unless you’re writing an in-depth analysis on how Capital Gains Tax works, jargon should be like that friend you see every now and then. It should NOT be your best friend! If you are writing for a broad audience, the heavy use of jargon will most likely confuse and alienate readers. The solution? Eliminate excessive jargon!
Ah wordiness. Whether it involves saying the same thing twice (how redundant of you), using large, pompous words (that’s verbosity in action), or adding extra, unnecessary words (you’re being super superfluous), it’s incredibly easy to get carried away in the pursuit of sounding intelligent or filling a word count. I’ve done it at least…two thousand times in my lifetime. I think. Anyway, the reality is that your audience may be left scratching their heads, getting tension headaches or starting protest rallies at the quality of your writing. The solution? Simplify and proofread!
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My personal favourite, malapropisms involve confusing one word with another similar-sounding word(s). The result is often downright hilarious. Case in point is Tony Abbott’s now legendary slip-up. Instead of using the term repository, which refers to a place of storage, he made the unfortunate mistake of referencing a suppository (Google it). Is your name Kath or Kim? If not, then stay clear of malapropisms. The solution? Think before you speak and don’t use terms or phrases you’re not familiar with.
There are heaps of ways to say things. It’s like too easy, ya know? Informal language certainly has its value and can be effectively used to connect with your audience. However, just like Cadbury Dairy Milk bars and late-night KFC runs, it should be consumed/used in moderation. Otherwise you end up sounding a little bit too eager and a little bit too much like the Wiggles or that old-timer from down the street. The solution? Pretend you’re writing for your best friend and Stephen Hawking AT THE SAME TIME.
Apart from now knowing the difference between suppository and repository, hopefully you found this post quite didactic. I mean educational. Go forth and be all wordsmith-like.